Jimmy Carter photo

Conservation Fee on Oil Imports Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters.

June 04, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Back in March, after very close consultations with the leadership in both the House and Senate, I decided and announced to the public that I would impose an oil conservation fee on imported oil to this country. Both the congressional leaders and I decided then, and I still maintain and am convinced, that this is important for the energy security of our Nation, for the economic security of our Nation, and also for the national security of our country.

This is important, because we import too much oil. Now more than 40 percent of all of the oil we use is imported. As a matter of fact, we import and use more oil than all the other Western industrialized nations put together. That's our total consumption. When and if this import fee is imposed, it will save us about 100,000 barrels per day the first year, and after 3 years a quarter of a million barrels per day reduction in imported oil.

This is an important, tangible contribution to saving oil and also preventing the expenditure, this year for instance, of $90 billion of American money to buy foreign oil. Along with that oil, as I've said many times, we import both inflation and we import unemployment.

To the extent that we can convince the foreign nations, both the oil producers and consumers, that we mean business in conserving energy and reducing our imported oil, to that extent they will join with us in reducing world demand and also maintaining world production. A small investment now by us in reducing imported oil by the imposition of this fee will have great benefits in the future in holding down the price of imported oil and, therefore, gasoline to American people.

Most European countries and Japan and other Western democratic societies have a gasoline tax imposed by their federal government of between $1 and $2 per gallon. If this import fee is imposed, the total Federal tax will only be 14 cents. If the Congress should reverse this decision-which they are now attempting to do—it will send a clear signal to oilproducing nations and oil-consuming nations that we do not mean business, that we will not take a firm stand to conserve oil; and we will pay much higher prices for oil in the future because of that.

Soon a bill will get to my desk, I believe, that will reverse this decision to impose the conservation fee. If and when that happens, I intend to veto the bill immediately and send it back to the Congress. My hope is that the American people and the Congress will understand the importance of this. This is not a popular decision. It does involve an increase in the price of gasoline to American consumers now. But in my judgment it is right for our country, and it will also be right in holding down the price of gasoline in future years.

Thank you very much.

REPORTER. Mr. President, what's your alternative if they override the veto? Do you have other things that you could do?

THE PRESIDENT. There are some other alternatives. I hope that they will not override. But if I don't get but one vote on the Hill, I'm still going to veto this bill, because it's right and it's important to us to send to the American people and to the foreign countries a clear signal that we mean business in conserving oil.

Q. Sir, what will you say to Senator Kennedy when you see him tomorrow here?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know. I intend to meet with Senator Kennedy. And I'll congratulate him on having run a good campaign and see what we can do together to work together in the future to meet the Republican challenge successfully.

Q. Are you going to ask him to join you as the nominee of the party?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll wait until I meet with him

Q. What did he say to you on the phone today?

THE PRESIDENT. That he thought it would be important for us to get together at an early time to discuss the political situation.

Q. Did it sound like he's being conciliatory?

THE PRESIDENT. I wouldn't say that, no. [Laughter]

Q. Did he say he would persist in the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. We didn't go into that.

Q. Did he say why it took him so long to answer the phone? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Well, he's been very busy, as have I, and he returned the call in adequate timely fashion.

Q. What's he been doing?

THE PRESIDENT. You'll have to ask Senator Kennedy. I think we'll have a good meeting.

Q. Do you think you'll have no problem of winning his support before the convention?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, that'll be a decision for him to make, Sam [Sam Donaldson, ABC News].

Q. Are you going to be able to offer him some help on the platform, so that some of his views could be expressed there?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. Obviously, the views of Senator Kennedy and his supporters, Governor Brown and his supporters, and even individual Democrats who've not run for President, will be presented to the platform drafting committee first, and then to the full committee. And if there are still differences of opinion about what the platform should say, then the delegates on the floor of the convention will make the ultimate decision. That's a democratic process. It'll be open, and I think it'll be a healthy process.

Q. Governor Carey said again today that you hadn't won New York, you hadn't won New Jersey, you hadn't won major States that a Democratic nominee had to win. How do you answer that?

THE PRESIDENT. Can't win them all. I've won about three-fourths of the contests. But I wish I could have won a hundred percent, but I didn't, and that was because I had some formidable opponents and because we have some very difficult decisions to make. And I think we did much better than we thought we would 7 or 8 months ago.

Q. Did he say he's going to stay in the race until the convention?

THE PRESIDENT. We did not discuss that at all.

Q. At all? What did you actually say to the Senator?

THE PRESIDENT. We primarily just made arrangements to have a meeting tomorrow afternoon.

Q. Will it be cordial? Will it be strained?

THE PRESIDENT. Very cordial, not strained.

Q. Did he call you back, or did you place the call?

THE PRESIDENT. No, he called back. [Laughter]

Q. Do you feel relieved that the primaries are over now?

THE PRESIDENT. I am very relieved that the primaries are over. It's been a long, tough, tedious, difficult 7 or 8 months, and it's a great relief to be

Q. Mr. President, Governor Reagan-how serious of a challenge can he mount against you?

THE PRESIDENT. I think a formidable challenge. He's shown what he can do in the Republican primary, caucus contest.

Q. But isn't he too old?

THE PRESIDENT. That's a judgment that the voters will have to make.

Q. Was there any discussion of whipping anything? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. No discussion, except that maybe we'll whip the Republicans in the fall.

Q. Do you think that was a little overambitious statement back there in the winter?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll let you judge by yourselves.

Q. Are you going to plan your strategy now for the Reagan—for the campaign?

THE PRESIDENT. We've been working on that for a few weeks.

Q. How are you going to portray him?

THE PRESIDENT. I'll let you know later.

Note: The President spoke at 4:41 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Conservation Fee on Oil Imports Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251845

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