Burlington, Iowa Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting.
THE PRESIDENT. First of all, I want to thank my good friend, Senator John Culver, one of the greatest representatives in the Senate, and a man who, every day, every minute of his life, is concerned about carving out a better life for the people whom he represents here in Iowa. John Culver, thank you very much.
I also want to recognize a man whom I believe to be the finest Secretary of Agriculture this country has ever known, Bob Bergland. Bob, thank you for coming.
And this will be a surprise to him, but I have to say that Burlington, Iowa, is especially blessed to have one of the finest newspapers in the United States, and one of the greatest editors, John McCormally, with the Hawk Eye.
This last 3 or 4 days has been a period in my life and in the life of Rosalynn and Amy which we will obviously never forget. It's been an inspiration to us, not only to see the beauty of the Midwest and the majesty of the Mississippi River, but also the friendship and the commitment and the interest and the unity and the dedication of the people who've come to the banks of this great river to make us feel welcome, and to express your appreciation for the Government of our country. We do, indeed, have a great nation, the greatest nation on Earth. I hope you agree with that statement. [Applause]
And I've been reinspired, as the highest elected officer of our country, as I've seen and met and talked to and listened to the crowds that have come down to the banks of the river to welcome us.
Our Nation has never been afraid to face a challenge. We have never been unable to overcome an obstacle or to meet a problem and solve it. And our country has always been able, when we were united, to answer any difficult question.
God's blessed us in many wonderful ways, with rich land, a democratic, free government, a pride in the individualism of each person, the right to be different, the right to speak our minds, the right to control our own Government, the right to unify ourselves in times of challenge-and I have to say that this is one of those times when our people must be unified.
We are seeing our country threatened, our security threatened by an excessive dependence on foreign oil. We now import about one-half all the oil we use. We must conserve energy. We must save energy. Each American can do this in our own particular way, in our transportation, our jobs, in our home. And I hope that all of you, without being told how to do it, will search out the dozens of different ways that you can eliminate waste of energy in your own lives. And the second thing we must do is to produce more energy in our own country.
The basis of this increased production and also increased conservation is the passage of a windfall profits tax on the oil companies in our country to make sure they don't keep all these enormous profits, but those profits are divided among the American people to give us a better life. And if you'll help me, we'll get that legislation through Congress and preserve our Nation's security.
This will help to guarantee that our farmers have enough fuel for tractors and homes have enough fuel for heat in the winter. It also will guarantee us that we increase production of oil and gas and coal and geothermal supplies, solar power, learn how to use it more effectively. And of course, we've got to produce more gasohol in Iowa. That's very important, too.
The last thing I'll say before I will take questions is this: It's an inspiration to anyone to see the beautiful and productive land in your part of the country; to know that we now and in the past and increasingly in the future will have a wonderful strategic weapon for peace—not only for ourselves but for the entire world—by having the breadbasket of the world here in the heartland of our country. Your productivity is increasing almost every year, and our exports of farm products set world record the first year I was in office in '77; another world record last year; another world record this year. And next year we anticipate an even greater increase in the export of corn and wheat and other farm products from Iowa, which bring a better life for you, a better, stronger economy for our Nation, and a better life for all people on Earth.
So, I particularly want to thank, as a farmer, the farmers of Iowa and those of Illinois and others around this country for the wonderful job that you do. Thank you, farmers, from the bottom of my heart.
And now I'm eager to answer questions about any matter that might be important to you or of interest to you. I've already made arrangements with Bob Bergland and John Culver to help me out if I have a question that I can't answer, and they volunteered to .do it. So, I'm ready for the first question, I think on this microphone.
GRAIN PRICES AND FUEL SUPPLIES
Q. I'm Lawrence Rowe from Grandview, Iowa, and I'm a Pioneer seedcorn salesman, and I carry a lot of interest with the farmers. Now, is there going to be plenty of fuel for the farmers for this fall and next spring? And also, will the price come down to help the farmers out, along with their price of grain?
THE PRESIDENT. The answer to your first question is that there will be enough fuel if American people, including farmers, are careful about how much you use, don't waste fuel, and if we have a success in the Congress in getting our energy program through. My guess is that both these questions will be answered yes. So, my answer to you is there will be an adequate supply of fuel for the farmers in the harvest season this fall and the planting season next spring.
The answer to your other question—will energy supplies be cheaper—the answer, unfortunately, is no. It's not good for a President to mislead the people. And I cannot tell you that now or in the future that the price of oil or other energy will be going down. Inevitably, the price of fuel in the future is going to go up, because the demand is growing and the supplies are becoming more scarce.
You'll have the fuel if you conserve it. You'll probably have to pay more for it. But I hope that we—John Culver, Bob Bergland and I and others—can make sure that the income for the American farm family continues to rise because your productivity goes up. And we'll try to hold prices as strong as we can, and particularly with the Grain Reserve program that has been implemented since I've been in the White House, with Bob Bergland's help.
The farmers need to have a greater share of the prices charged for products when they get to the consumers. In the past, the middleman and the distributor has gotten too much. We want to see more of that money go into the pockets of the American farm families.
1980 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
Q. My name is Scott Kelsay. I'm from Burlington, and I'm a student at the University of Iowa. Mr. President, wouldn't it be appropriate for you to announce your candidacy for reelection here today, since Iowa was a stronghold for you in 1976 and your first endorsement came from our local Hawk Eye editor, John McCormally?
THE PRESIDENT. That sounds like a wonderful idea— [laughter] —which I will consider very carefully. Thank you very much.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. I haven't forgotten, by the way, what Iowa did in '76. So, I'll be thinking about that question very carefully. [Laughter]
OIL AND TOXIC WASTE POLLUTION
Q. My name is Jean Funck, and I'm from Burlington. I'm a housewife. Recognizing the fact that the United States is a great power and as a result must use a great deal of diplomacy, what is being done to hold Mexico responsible for harming wildlife and ecology and a regional economy in south Texas? Were the situation reversed, I am sure the entire world would be chastising the United States.
THE PRESIDENT. We do not yet have an international agreement on how to handle pollution in the high seas. And as you all know, only in the last few years-really the last few months—has the world become interested in having both ships that carry oil be made safer so that the disasters don't take place nor to control the pumping of oil from the wells in the offshore regions. So, we have no way at this point of requiring another country-Mexico or others—to pay for damage that might occur from an oil spill carried to our shores.
We are discussing with other nations means by which we can control these oil spills, first of all, and make a reserve supply of funds for damage to private individuals. It hasn't happened yet.
The other part of this, of course, is the control of the spills from our own toxic materials that in the past have not been covered at all. I have sent to the Congress now a proposal which would mean that every producer of a toxic material which would include those that we have to use every day, like herbicides and pesticides-would have to put a small amount of money into an insurance fund so that later on, maybe many years later, when a dump near a city which contain toxic materials did damage a person's property or a person's life, that they might be paid for that damage out of the reserve fund. And part of that money would be used to ensure that those toxic materials are placed so that the spill would not occur.
This is an area of government that has just begun to be explored. But we are pushing for that agreement among nations. It hasn't been reached yet.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. It's a good question.
John, it's one that we need to pursue a little further.
SOUTHEAST ASIA REFUGEES
Q. Mr. President, my name is Phillip Good. I'm from Burlington, Iowa, and I'm a student at Southeastern Community College and also a part-time employee at the Hawk Eye. You said that when we import oil, we also import inflation and unemployment. Well, I'll agree with that, but isn't it also true when we bring in the boat people, we're also bringing in unemployment and inflation?
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Phil. That's a good question and I'm glad you asked it.
How many people here have ancestors that were Native Americans? I see two or three hands back there whose parents were Indians.
Let me remind you that the United States is a country of immigrants. We are a country of refugees. Whether your parents came here 300 years ago or whether your parents came here one generation ago or whether you've only been here a few months, the United States has always been a nation with an open heart and with open arms to receive those people who were seeking for religious freedom or seeking for a better way of life.
The refugees who are now leaving Southeast Asia were our allies in the recent Vietnam war. They are now being persecuted by a Communist government in Vietnam, which has taken away from them their basic rights. They leave that country; almost half of them drown in the ocean before they can find a place of safety. Our Nation has joined in with other nations throughout the world to receive these refugees. We've now received, I think in all those that are here and those that are being processed—about 220,000. That is 1 refugee—man, woman, child—for every 1,000 Americans. And we are very carefully placing those refugees, when they come into our country, in areas where the unemployment rate is low.
They are entrepreneurs; they're the kind of people that work hard under the form of free enterprise system that existed in Vietnam before it was taken over by the Communists. One of the reasons they're being pushed out of Vietnam is because they believe in individual work, individual initiative, personal freedom. They are more philosophically attuned to us than they are to the Communist regime that's taken over.
I believe that a thousand Americans can support, for just a few weeks, one refugee searching for freedom, particularly when those people have proven already that they are eager to learn our language, they are eager to be selfsupporting, they are hard-working, dedicated, honest people.
So, I hope that all Americans, no matter how you might feel, will realize that your family came here in generations gone by, looking for exactly the same thing that the Vietnam refugees are looking for now. There are very few of them. And f think our country ought to be proud that we still are the land of the free and the home of the brave, with an open heart and open minds and open arms to take them in.
Q. Mr. President, my name is Linda Larkin, and I'm from Fort Madison. And my question to you is, now that you've been in office for about 3 years, and you've seen that Congress hasn't done that much to help you, what do you think you could do to improve your working relationship with them, especially with the energy legislation?
THE PRESIDENT. Last week I took the last action that I can take to improve the production of energy in our own country by moving to encourage the production of very heavy, very thick oil. It costs more to produce it. And in the past, Government redtape and regulations and low prices have kept us from producing about half a million barrels per day of that heavy, unconventional oil.
The next steps must be taken by Congress. I might hasten to add that Senator Culver's been very helpful in trying to move toward a comprehensive energy policy. So far, we've passed about 65 percent of the energy proposals that I made to the Congress in April of 1977, the first year I was in office.
The other part that hasn't been passed relates to oil. The Congress has not yet passed a single line of legislation about oil. And it's not an accident, because for many years the oil companies have had a tremendous, effective lobby in Washington to protect their interests. You can't much blame them.
But in the last couple of years the consumers of this country have got a new voice. And now it's a very close match between the oil companies on one hand, wanting to keep all the profits that they get that they do not earn, and the consumers on the other hand, that are struggling to see the Congress pass a windfall profits tax, so that those excess profits can be shared among the American people.
I can't force the Congress to take action, but all of you, and people like you around the Nation, can force the Congress to take action.
I was just informed a few minutes ago that all the members of the United Automobile Workers in the Nation are going to take 6 minutes and write a postcard to Congress supporting the energy proposals that we have made. And I hope this will make a lot of impact on the Congress.
So, Linda, I'll have to say this to you: It's not an accident that as we've drifted down the Mississippi River, having a good time, almost every time I've stopped I've talked about the need for American people to do two things: save energy in your own life, and help me induce the Congress to pass the windfall profits tax so we can have a comprehensive energy program to make our energy security guaranteed.
That's an excellent question. And I hope everybody will listen to my voice and let your Congress Member know we need to have that energy policy passed through the Congress.
Q. Mr. President, my name is Jim Paul. I'm a teacher and a coach from the West Burlington School System. First of all, I'd like you to equate your concept of the free enterprise system with the application of the Chrysler Corporation to the Government for a billion dollars worth of aid. And would you support the program, the aid, if Chrysler could be forced to manufacture public transportation equipment?
THE PRESIDENT. We are approaching the Chrysler question, Jim, very cautiously. And the approach that I have approved personally has a heavy dependence on the free enterprise system.
It requires Chrysler, first of all, to reconstitute their management so they can be more effective and more efficient in the future than they have been in the past. It also requires that Chrysler go, first off, to private sources of financing to get the loans that they need. The only thing I think the Federal Government ought to do is to provide some guarantee for those loans that are obtained in the private sector, but let the Federal Government in effect hold the first mortgage.
I think we ought to protect the public interest as we help Chrysler tide themselves over a difficult time. Chrysler must change, as the other automobile manufacturers must change in our country, to make automobiles that are more fuel-efficient and also that meet our pollution standards. They are changing now as fast as they can. in the last few years, even since—since 1973, when we had the oil embargo, the American consumers have often demanded the very large, inefficient cars. Now they must make the change.
So, I would say a shared responsibility between the employees and employers of Chrysler, a heavy dependence on the private enterprise system, a minimum involvement of the Federal Government, and a maximum security for any loans that the Federal Government guarantees-that's a package that I think would be acceptable. It would keep Chrysler operating, maintain more competition in the automobile industry to hold prices down, and it would keep about two or three hundred thousand UAW workers employed who now work for Chrysler.
That'll be a good investment, I believe, if we do it that way.
Q. Good morning, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Good morning.
Q. My name is Jerry Rigdon. I live here in Burlington, Iowa, and I am a professional window cleaner. Do you have any dirty windows in the White House? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. There's a lot of—we need a lot more light in Washington. I'll say that for you. [Laughter]
Q. The motto of my company is: "We brighten your outlook."
Mr. President, in lieu of the fact that our counties and cities depend on road use tax to build new streets and new roads, it is not—with road-use taxes directly related to gasoline sales—it is not in the best interest of cities or counties to develop bike paths, efficient mass transit systems, force carpooling, and other means that would mean tremendous gasoline savings to—in our energy program—can other revenues be released to particularly aid in these efforts of the counties and the cities?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to claim or leave the impression that everything a city or a county or a family does in saving energy must be with the help of the Federal Government. A lot of the initiative has got to come from individuals and from local communities.
My wife recently visited a small—well, a fairly good-sized town named Davis, California. Right, Rosalynn? That community, on its own initiative, with some already prescribed Federal programs, put in bike trails and helped people to decide how they could save energy in many different ways.
They gave Rosalynn, for instance, a free gift, which she's authorized to keep, of a solar clothes drier. It was a 20-foot rope with five or six clothespins. [Laughter]
I try to run 4 or 5 miles every day. I did this morning, I think at Lock 18, before I came up here. And I think a lot of people would enjoy the beauty of a place like Burlington if a few times a week or maybe every day, instead of riding a half mile or a mile to work, you'd walk there and back, or ride a bike. And this kind of approach would be very helpful as an inspiration to others if it was adequately publicized.
The Federal programs are being designed more and more in housing and urban development, in community planning, in transportation, in agriculture, in almost every aspect of American life, to conserve energy. This is an area where we are just beginning to scratch the surface. This has not been part of our lives, as you know, in our country with $2-a-barrel oil. Now with $20-a-barrel oil becoming increasingly scarce, we've got to do this together.
I think one of the best things is for local communities to take the initiative and to let that lesson be learned at the State level, and then at the Federal level, instead of depending on the Federal Government to tell you all what to do.
Your question, though, about how Federal transportation funds can be better designed to help conserve energy at the local level is a very good one.
The new Secretary of Transportation, Neil Goldschmidt, is a former mayor of Portland, Oregon. He has a special interest in transportation, and he's also done one of the best jobs in the whole country in Portland in conserving energy in the transportation area. So, I would guess that his new approach will be very beneficial to all the country and would also help to answer your question that you've raised, which is a very good one for the whole world, our whole country to know about.
We'll try to make sure the Federal programs in the future do a better job of saving energy, even at the local, county, and city level.
SYNTHETIC FUELS; FOOD PRODUCTION
Q. Mr. President, I'm Leo Talbot from Mount Union, Iowa. I'm a farmer. Part of my question was answered by the first gentleman, but I would still like to ask this question concerned about our product that we have out here with God's help and willing, we'll have for the next thousands of years as a synthetic fuel. We raise corn, and I wondered what the Government was doing, how much emphasis they are putting upon this corn product, that we can put into ethanol to make a synthetic fuel. Are they really into it great now? We've been working at it out here for several years. Are they into it great?
And the last part of my question was, of course, are you going to put the farmers on a number one priority this fall to harvest our crops?
Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT. The answer to your last question is yes. Bob Bergland is nodding his head even before I had a chance to answer. And obviously from one season to another, we have varying needs for distillate fuels, which are in relatively short supply.
During the planting season, we were putting in as many as 5 million acres per day, were we not, Bob?—one of the highest rates of planting that our Nation has ever seen. We were able, with the cooperation of farmers and the ASCS Offices, Governors, and everyone else, to get enough fuel to the farmers during the planting season so there were no long delays.
We'll do the same thing in the harvest season in the fall and also in the planting season in the future, because the production of food in our country is a top priority, along with fire protection, police protection, and emergency vehicles, both the production of food on land and also the fisheries off the shores.
As far as the production of gasohol is concerned, we are now exploring every possibility for putting into operation both the very small gasohol plants that can be put on a large farm or those that are much more costly and much more extensive. We now have two major pilot projects already underway. We are preserving the exemption of the 4 cents per gallon on gasohol to encourage its production. That amounts in total to about $60 per barrel that we are helping with gasohol use.
Third, we've done all we can so far—but we will do more in the future—to make sure that there's an extra investment tax credit of 10 percent for people who invest in a gasohol-producing plant.
Yesterday at the John Deere international headquarters in Moline, I saw a new machine that's still in the experimental stage, where they burn corncobs-where they take corncobs and burn them and they make a gas which has about 15 percent of the energy as natural gas. And then they burn that gas and make electricity, either to pump water or to provide electricity for a farm. So, the use of farm products, cornstalks, corncobs, perhaps just as important, peanut hulls, different things— [laughter] —can be used now to make gas.
On gasohol, the Congress, particularly including the Congress Members from Iowa, have proposed that we make available low-interest, direct loans to farmers who will put in the very small gasohol-producing plants. f have not announced this before publicly, but I would like to announce it to you—Mr. Talbot, right? that my administration will support this move. And I believe that Congress this year, before it goes home, will have low interest, direct loans for people who will put in small gasohol-producing plants on farms in Iowa. 1
1 On the same day, the White House Press Office released the following information at Burlington.
The President today announced support for new legislative authority to assist in the construction of small- and intermediate-scale plants for the production of alcohol fuel. He indicated that alcohol made from agricultural and forestry residues and commodities can play an increasingly important role in our fight for energy security.
An alcohol-gasoline mixture is already being marketed through more than 800 retail outlets in 28 States. President Carter noted that alcohol fuels would be especially important over the coming decade, a period of intensive research and exploration for alternative energy sources. One of the great advantages of this fuel is its already proven technology, although research into improved production methods will also be undertaken.
Noting the strong interest among many Members of Congress, the President indicated that he is anxious to work with them to enact new authority to promote the further development of alcohol fuels through small- and intermediate-scale plants.
He proposed a 2-year direct or guaranteed loan program to be administered by the Department of Agriculture, with a limit of $3 million per project. The loan program would be supplemented with a program of technical assistance and research and financed from the energy security trust fund. With the help of this program, individuals or groups of individuals could play an active role in lessening our Nation's dependence on foreign oil.
The President's support of this measure is the latest in a series of steps the administration has taken to further the development, production, and use of alcohol fuels, including:
• Presidential directives to:
—use gasohol in Federal vehicles, whenever feasible;
—simplify and reduce Federal reporting requirements for alcohol fuel producers.
• Presidential recommendation that the current 4-cent-per-gallon excise tax exemption for gasoline-alcohol ( 10 percent) blends be extended permanently.
Implementations of a 10-percent investment tax credit for facilities that convert alternative substances or feedstocks into synthetic liquid fuels, including alcohol fuels.
• Loan guarantees of $30 million by the Department of Agriculture for two innovative pilot projects for the production of alcohol.
• An $11 million loan and grant program by the Department of Energy, the Economic Development Administration, and the Community Services Administration to assist in the construction of 100 small-scale alcohol production plants.
• Increased funding of DOE research and development of alcohol fuels from $3 million in FY 1977 to $25 million in FY 1980. Also, the USDA is programing nearly $6 million in FY 1980 for this purpose.
If you think of anything else I can do to help gasohol production, you let me know and I'll do it.
Q. I'll meet you afterwards.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you. [Laugh. ter]
THE PRESIDENT'S TRIP
Q. Mr. President, I am Gertrude Getdom from Burlington, Iowa, and I'm a housewife. And I want to tell you I think you're doing a real good job and also ask if you've caught any fish since you've been on your trip.
THE PRESIDENT. I think I've done a better job of being President than I have catching fish this trip. But we're going to try again this afternoon, and I believe we're going to catch some.
Q. Good luck. God bless you.
THE PRESIDENT. Gertrude, that's the kind of question I never get from the Washington press corps. Thank you very much. I love you. [Laughter]
SIZE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Q. I'm Emerson Cordes from Evergreen Park, Illinois. I'm retired. Many of us were heartened recently when you gave your Sunday night speech, especially setting forth two objectives that we could all get behind that would really help our country, that of controlling inflation and attacking the energy problem in all the many ways you suggested. But to reach these objectives, you're going to need all of our help and our support. And right now, we've lost an awful lot of confidence in that Washington establishment. We just don't feel it has the capability or the willingness to respond to the people's needs and expressed feelings.
And I'm wondering if you've ever thought of setting an objective, perhaps, for your administration of reducing the size of that Washington establishment by, say, 10 percent, just to show that the people still own it and that they don't own us.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I've thought about it a lot, and we have made some progress.
As you know, each year, the services of the Government expand. Five years ago, there was practically no bureaucracy for the energy question. Now we have a very large department, the Department of Energy, that must administer programs that encourage gasohol and encourage the weatherization of homes and design better ways of transportation and monitor more efficient automobiles and distribute scarce supplies of fuel to farmers. That kind of service is demanded by the people. It's passed by the Congress and goes into effect. In spite of that, though, since I've been in office, we've had a reduction in the number of Federal employees, just a small reduction, 2,000. And I hope that I can finish this term and not have any increase at least in the number of Federal employees.
When you start asking Americans where do you want to cut, it's a very difficult question to answer. I would hesitate, for instance, as a farmer to eliminate either the Home Demonstration Agents or the County Agents or the ASCS Office employees who do a good job on a routine basis—and 3 or 4 months ago during planting season, we had to call on them almost full-time, 24 hours a day, to give us an inventory of where distillate fuels were and where the supplies were needed.
So, there are some requirements of the Government that must be carried out: the improvement of cities with HUD and the administering of programs for the poor through HEW, increased health for our people, the elimination of cancer, the control of these kinds of diseases must be carried out. So, I don't want you to feel that just because the Government is often insensitive that it's completely wasteful. There is waste there. There was waste in my farm in Plains. And there was waste in Carter's Warehouse, and there's probably waste in all of your businesses as well. But we are doing the best we can to bold it down.
We have now put into effect, with the Congress help, the first complete revision of the Civil Service in the last 100 years. That's .just gone into effect, but I believe that in the future, you'll see some great benefits flowing from it.
So, in spite of the increase in services being demanded and being delivered, we are holding down the number of Federal employees. Maybe we're not doing a good enough job, but we're trying. And I would like to emphasize one more time what's come up two or three times already, that the initiative must come from the individual American and from the individual family and individual community. And the more you do for yourselves, within a family or within a community, the less will be demanded from the Government and the more we can save taxes and the more we can have a better life for us all, because that's where the enjoyment comes in.
I'm in favor of keeping the Federal Government as small as possible, but I have to be responsible for defending our Nation, keeping us strong, keeping us free, encouraging peace around the world, and meeting the legitimate needs of the American people.
So, don't curse your Government; just work with me to make it better.
Q. My name is Michael Lamb, Burlington, Iowa. I am an educator. Mr. Carter, if this community, in the future, could become the moral equivalent of cannon fodder and the moral equivalent of war, my question regards the continued utilization of nuclear fission power.
The 1957 Brookhaven report indicated that in the event of a massive reactor catastrophe, agricultural restrictions could prevail over 150,000 square miles, an area equal to the combined areas of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. Now, with this, the possible consequence of a catastrophic reactor accident, why are we allowing any reactors to be built in America's farmbelt, when it seems that just one major accident at any one of these reactors could lead to us importing food as well as oil?
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Michael.
I don't believe you have any nuclear reactors operating in Iowa, do you, John?
SENATOR CULVER. Yes. Palo.
THE PRESIDENT. One operating.
SENATOR CULVER. Palo. But there are several along the Mississippi and Illinois, serving Chicago.
THE PRESIDENT. Right. Well, as you know, for the last 35 or 40 years our country has had a policy of producing part of our energy from nuclear reactors. We now produce about, I think, 13 percent of all the electricity in our Nation from atomic reactors. Communities like Chicago get 50 percent of all their electricity from nuclear reactors.
It would be a very serious blow to our country to close down all the nuclear reactors that we have. We do have a problem that's now being assessed, brought about by the accident at Three Mile Island, and I have asked Dr. Kemeny, who heads up this Commission, to give me a report on how the existing atomic reactors can be made more safe to operate.
I thank God that in the last 35 or 40 years we have never had a fatality or a serious injury in a commercial reactor in the United States. But I want to make sure that we don't have any in the future.
We also have not had enough attention given to the disposal of waste from the atomic reactors. Now, when this Kemeny report comes in to me—within the next few days, as a matter of fact—I will assess it and, working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and with the Congress, will take whatever action is necessary for better design, better training of personnel, and better operation of the existing nuclear plants to make sure that we do have as safe a nuclear program as possible.
I don't want to mislead you. Some people like Michael don't think that we ought to have any use of atomic power. I believe that it's inevitable that there will be a place for atomic power in the future in our country. But to the extent that all of us save energy, to the extent that we increase the production of oil and gas in our country, to the extent that we shift toward the plentiful supplies of coal and make coal clean-burning, to the extent that we have more efficient automobiles, that we take whatever action we can to make homes more savers of energy—to the extent that we do all these things to conserve and to increase production of other energy, we can cut down on the demand for atomic power.
During my campaign for President 2 1/2, 3 years ago, I said that we ought to make atomic power a source of energy as a last resort. And what I mean by that is that as we conserve and produce other forms of energy, our Nation will need less atomic power.
As you know, we have not had atomic powerplants approved for new construction in quite a while. We're at a pause now, and with the Kemeny report-which I hope all of you will study—we'll see how to make atomic power, if it is used in the future, more safe for Americans and protect both lives and the land that you describe, Michael.
Thank you very much.
Q. Mr. Carter?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. You did still not address the fact of the farming. What happens if you have one accident in the American farmbelt?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, obviously, it depends on the kind of accident that you have.
Q. Right. A major catastrophic accident, one which on ABC News stated the odds in the next 30 years could be as high as 1 in 15.
THE PRESIDENT. The only way I can answer you is that if we have a catastrophic accident that would be a catastrophe.
Q. Mr. Carter, one more point, please. There's a great deal of talk in this country about energy independence for America. The Government should not forget that Americans need energy independence also.
Q. Mr. President, I'm Jean McKinney, an orchestra teacher from here in Burlington. And I was wondering if Amy's still making good progress with her violin lessons. [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. I think Amy plays very well, considering the talent that she has. [Laughter]
I think you would be proud to hear Amy play. She hasn't practiced much on this trip, I have to admit. She's been concentrating on the calliope. But she's doing very well and I'm very proud of her.
LETTER FOR THE PRESIDENT
Q. Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. This is really important to me. I have a letter that I'd like to give to you. And I'd risk being arrested in order to give it to you, I think it's so important.
THE PRESIDENT. No, you're not going to be arrested. If you'll give it to my wife Rosalynn, right there in the green shirt, I'll get it.
Q. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT. It's a pleasure.
SALE OF KEROSENE TO IRAN
Q. Mr. Carter, my name is Mary Beth Murrell, and I'm a math teacher at West Burlington. It's super-exciting to have you here, and I want you to know that we heartily support your energy program and we're doing everything we can do to help. We're biking to work and we installed a solar system in our home.
THE PRESIDENT. Very good.
Q. But my question is this: On the late news on the radio last night, they said something about that we were selling oil to Iran. Now, they didn't explain this at all. They were heavily critical of the fact that somebody was selling our oil while you were floating down the Mississippi. [Laughter] I would like for you to complete this report and explain to me why we are selling oil to Iran.
THE PRESIDENT. Okay.
We get from Iran, I think, about 30 million barrels of oil every month. I'm not sure about the exact figure, but that's roughly what we get. And a few months ago, because of some riots in Iran, they sabotaged a pipeline going to the refinery which makes kerosene for the Iranian people. They use kerosene in their homes like we did when I was a child to cook and for everything else. And they had a very severe shortage of kerosene. And they asked us to sell them back about twothirds of one day's supply of kerosene to meet the needs of the families in Iran, and since they sell us more than that every day, I personally approved the sale of that much kerosene to Iran.
But it's just a small amount compared to what we use and also a very tiny amount compared to what we get from Iran, about one-fiftieth of what we get from Iran every month. And it was just a one-time proposition.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. We're not going to shut down any tractors because of it.
ENERGY CONSERVATION TAX CREDITS
Q. Mr. President, my name is Dan Carlson, from Middletown, Iowa. I'm a student at Quincy College in Quincy. On the housing situation, by energy conservation, the only type of tax relief that I understand is basically solar heat that you're more or less giving a tax break to. We have several other types of energy conservation methods, such as underground living, which stays at a constant temperature, between 55 and 60 degrees a year, with no heat at all. And you can take it up to a comfortable 72 degrees by using about two logs a day in a fireplace. There's absolutely no oil use there at all.
Now, there's no tax relief for anything like that. If you have a stream that goes through your property, if you'd put a water generator on that, there's no tax relief for that or anything of that sort. Could you give me any idea on that?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. As you know, Dan, the establishment of a program on a nationwide basis for 220 million Americans, maybe 50 million homes, is a very expensive proposition, whether it's with a tax credit or a direct loan, where interest is subsidized or sometimes a grant. It's not going to be possible for us to have a major expansion or encouraging people to conserve energy without the windfall profits tax. That will be the source of enough money to take care of poor families, who are especially hurt by increasing prices of oil; secondly, to give us a better transportation system; and third, to encourage conservation and also the production of American energy.
We already have a tax credit for the weatherization of homes, where you'd take various means to cut down on the waste of heat. I'd have to look into the law to see if it covers the placement of a home down below the ground level. 2 But I was in Baltimore recently, where they are weatherizing this year 3,000 homes in the low-income area. Next year, they have a target of weatherizing 5,000 homes in the low-income area. It only costs them in that urban area about $275 per home to make it energy efficient. They save more than that every 2 years in reduced costs of heating oil and natural gas, whatever they use.
2On the same day, the White House Press Office released the following information at Burlington.
The law, proposed by the President in April 1977 and passed by the Congress in 1978, provides a tax credit of 15 percent of up to the first $2,000 of weatherization projects added to homes after April 1977. Weatherization projects are those such as insulation and caulking, and so forth. Homes, either below or above ground, are eligible for a tax credit, providing work was performed that meets the law's requirements. There is, however, no tax credit for building a home underground per se.
We now are prepared to expand this program to encourage that kind of saving. But we have to have the windfall profits tax to do it. It applies not only to solar installations, which get a $2,200 tax credit already, but also to the weatherization of homes and to the production of electricity from low-head dams.
One possibility that we are exploring and which will be pursued, by the way, is the series of locks and dams on the Mississippi River, some of which might be available for the production of electricity to be used at a very low additional cost. We now have pilot projects all over the Nation where a small community formerly had its own private source of electric generation, from a nearby stream that had been dammed up with a low-height dam, and we're going to put those back into operation. There'll be several thousand of those around the country.
So, we're expanding in every possible way the encouragement of the saving of heat in homes, transportation, and the cheap production of energy. But all of that program that's not already in effect would have to depend on the passage of the windfall profits tax.
At the end of this year, I believe that we'll have an adequate base for a long period of time in the future to meet the needs that you described. But there's already a tax credit available of about $300 for homes like you described, and I'll have to find out for you, if you don't mind, whether it applies to putting the home partially underground.
Q. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Dan, very much. If one of my staff would get Dan's address, we'll send you the answer. Okay?
Q. Good morning, Mr. President. My name is Bonnie Wilson. I'm from Burlington, Iowa, and I'm a secretary. I'm wondering what you plan to do or what you have done to assist the middle-aged woman either entering or reentering the job market.
THE PRESIDENT. Okay.
Bonnie, it's hard to single out that particular age group and the fact that they would be women. What I faced when I was running for President, when I first became President, was an unemployment rate above 8 percent. We've had a net increase in our country now of 8 million jobs, a net increase, just in the last 2 1/2 years—those jobs being made available to young people and older people, middleaged men and women. So, I'm sure that the middle-aged woman has benefited.
Also, in the Federal Government, for instance, we've tried to set an example for other employers in encouraging the employment of women. Although we've had a 2,000 reduction in total Federal employment, we've had a 26,000 increase in the number of women who are employed. Obviously, this is an area that can be expanded in the future.
I think Iowa now has an unemployment rate of like 4 percent. And I would guess that any able-bodied person, man or woman, that really wants a job in Iowa can get one now. But we've made good progress on the unemployment field with the help of many people.
The best place, obviously, to acquire jobs is not in the Government or even with government programs, but in the private sector. And I think a strong and dynamic economy is the best source for jobs in the future.
But I think we've made good progress in the employment field. We haven't reached our goal of no unemployment, but we are getting closer than we were.
Thank you, Bonnie, very much.
I don't think I've got time for another question. Everybody is motioning at me. But let me say this in closing. The questions that have been asked I think will help the whole country. They're the kind of questions that make me think more about what we are doing in Washington and give me guidance for the future, both in domestic affairs, in meeting the needs of the average family on transportation and housing, agriculture and saving energy, but also in international affairs.
Jean Funck asked a question, for instance, about how we could make Mexico accountable for oil spills. This is an area that already we were exploring but we haven't yet solved.
So, I thank all of you for your questions and for giving me a chance to answer them.
Let me say this in closing: If you don't remember anything else from the townhall meeting outdoors today, remember what a great country we have and how strong we are. Almost invariably we're inclined to think about the temporary inconvenience, the disagreements that are so highly publicized between the House and the Senate, or the Congress and the President, or the States and the Federal Government, or private citizens and others in our Nation. Those transient problems come and go very rapidly. Americans have always been able to face them and to solve them.
And I have no doubt in my mind that the present problems that our country faces can be solved, because our country is so great, because we have been so blessed with natural resources—but above all, because Americans are resilient, strong when we need to be, and unified when we see a common problem. So, I would like to ask all of you to do what I said in my Sunday night speech: Every day, say something good about America. We have the greatest nation on Earth, and if you will join in with me in the future, we'll make it even greater in years to come.
Thank you very much. God bless all of you.
Note: The President spoke at 10 a.m. at Crapo Park.
Following the town meeting, the President attended a private reception for community officials and area residents at the home of Mr. McCormally. He then returned to the Delta Queen.
Jimmy Carter, Burlington, Iowa Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session at a Town Meeting. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249215