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Gasoline Shortages in California Remarks Announcing Measures To Improve the Situation.

May 16, 1979

THE PRESIDENT. Last week when I was in California, I witnessed personally the deep distress of the people of that State because of the long gasoline lines and because of an obvious shortage in fuel necessary to get them to and from their jobs, to and from shopping, and to perform the necessities of life. This causes me great concern as President, and I have done what I could, since I returned from California, to prepare a series of steps that might help to alleviate the problem. I think we can accurately say that the State and local officials, the Congress, and my administration are all working in cooperation to alleviate this serious problem.

This morning I met with the Governor of California, with the mayor of Los Angeles, the speaker of the house in California, and the congressional delegation, to consult together on what additional steps might be taken.

This is a national problem, but it particularly affects adversely States like California and Nevada that are growing quite rapidly and have additional automobiles on the highways, additional population to consume gasoline, when in the past the base for allocation of gasoline supplies was many years old. Also, of course, as many of us know, in California there's a heavy dependence on individual automobiles and a very low dependence upon mass transit systems.

We have now changed the allocation system and moved its base up to a much more recent period. This was done the 1st of May. And I believe it will have a substantial beneficial effect when its full impact is felt in California.
In addition to that, we have evolved several steps to improve the situation today. These are being promulgated in written form by my staff this afternoon. This is a continuing problem, and I think it's obvious that in the future the primary thrust has got to be to improve production of oil in our own Nation and to have a heavy emphasis on conservation.

We have not found any evidence of collusion or illegalities among the oil companies, but I have directed the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy to launch an investigation to assure that there are no improprieties or any illegalities or evidences of collusion in the withholding of fuel supplies for California or any other State. In addition, we will be deriving better data in the future so that we can know more accurately than we have in the past how much fuel is available now and how much will be available in the future.

We've discussed with Governor Brown, other State and local officials of California and Nevada, today the steps that can be taken at the State level to encourage conservation—rigid enforcement of the speed limits and some modification in other rules for increased consumption of gasoline—if the State officials desire to take such action.

I have designated Charles Warren 1 on my staff, a high official in the White House, to be my personal representative to California and Nevada in the coming days, to work very closely with the officials in those States to make sure that the supplies of gasoline are improved with the most expediency possible. Charles Warren is a very competent person. He's familiar with the processes here in Washington. He happened to have been the former chairman of the committee in the California Legislature dealing with energy.

More than 2 years ago, I submitted to the Congress a comprehensive package to deal with the impending energy problem in our Nation. The Congress took some action, but they ignored completely the need to take action on oil. This is a politically difficult issue to address, but it's crucial that it be handled properly.

We will now begin to decontrol oil over the next 28 months in a very carefully phased manner. This will encourage domestic production. It will decrease our dependence upon imported foreign oil, and it will also help to encourage conservation.

I have also asked the Congress to pass a windfall profits tax to be sure that the people of our Nation are protected from unwarranted and unearned profits by the oil companies resulting from the decontrol of oil prices.

The last thing I'd like to say this afternoon is that it's very important that the consumers of our Nation, the producers and refiners of oil, the developers of other sources of energy, the President and my whole administration, the Congress, State and local officials, all work together to deal with the energy shortage in an effective and cooperative basis.

It's nonproductive to seek a scapegoat. It's a serious problem that's going to be with us for years in the future. We can resolve it if we take actions similar to those that we have taken in the last few days, which I am sure will improve the situation in California, Nevada, and other States that have been heavily and adversely impacted over the last few days because of gasoline shortages.

This is an important issue to our country, and I've been very encouraged the last few days at the close cooperative relationship that exists among all those who are involved in seeking a solution. Thank you very much.

REPORTER. Did you say that June would be better—did you tell the Governor that June would be better than May as far as gasoline supplies?

THE PRESIDENT. We think that these changes that were made the 1st of May in allocation formulas and the improvements now in supplies that are available to refiners and for distribution brought about by the restoration of Iranian production will have a beneficial effect in the future, yes.

1 Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

Note: The President spoke at 4:34 p.m. to reporters assembled in the Briefing Room at the White House.

Jimmy Carter, Gasoline Shortages in California Remarks Announcing Measures To Improve the Situation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249374

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