Jimmy Carter photo

Kansas City, Missouri Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Counties.

July 16, 1979

Senator Tom Eagleton, Senator lack Danforth, Congressmen Ike Skelton and Harold Volkmer, President Charlotte Williams, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

You may have heard that I spoke to the Nation last night on television. [Laughter] That speech encompassed the ideas, the concerns, the dreams, the hopes,.the determination of many Americans. Your own president, Charlotte Williams, came to Camp David to help me write that speech.

Last night I spoke to you about the deep wounds our society has suffered and about my absolute conviction that we have the power and the will to heal these wounds and to restore the unity and confidence of America. I promised last night to keep on discussing our Nation's most serious problems with Americans. And ! also promised to keep on acting with the people to tackle these problems.

And today, I've come to Kansas City to meet with you to do both—to discuss the energy problem and to get you to help me succeed. ! want to know, will you help me succeed? [Applause]

My belief is that almost all Americans feel the same way. Just as the energy shortage has forced us to face our deepest fears and divisions, so our goal of an energy secure America will help us to rebuild our strength and our confidence as a people. We are coming to understand that the reasons for our energy crisis go beyond gas lines and wasteful habits to a loss of confidence that divides us and threatens us and which, for years, too many years, has prevented Presidents and the Congress and a great nation from acting courageously to meet this energy challenge. That is why we must decide here and now that we can and will regroup, we can and will unite, we can and will restore our confidence, we can and will win the battle to solve our energy problems and restore our Nation's security and keep us strong.

There are no easy answers. That is why ! will continue to explore new ideas and I will open new fronts and I will develop new points of attack. That is why ! will seek more and more Americans, allies to join me in this fight for our energy security, because on the battlefield of energy, this democracy which we love is going to make its stand. And on that battlefield you and I, fighting side by side, will win the energy war.

The underlying cause of the energy crisis, the energy problem, the energy challenge, the energy opportunity, is the same as it has been for many years—a massive, dangerous, growing dependence on oil, and particularly our dependence, excessive dependence on imported oil. A generation ago, we sent more oil out of the country than we brought in. Now we import almost half the oil we use, and after the latest price increase, the price we pay OPEC for our oil has almost doubled in the last 7 months.

With a government shakeup in distant Iran last winter, we lost in imports about 100 million barrels of oil. The gasoline lines are directly related to this particular vulnerability; so are the diesel fuel shortages among our farmers and among our truckers; and so are the present low home heating oil stocks as we face next winter. We simply must remove this threat to our people. I must act, the Congress must act, all of you must act now without delay, with determination, unity, courage, and confidence. With your recent expression of support for me, I have no doubt that we in this great country will succeed.

The first thing we've got to do is to face facts. There is simply not enough oil available in the world to meet all the demands of all the people in all the nations on Earth.

Americans are just now beginning to realize with simple common sense that there are only two ways to guarantee supply—one is obviously to control our demand, to cut back on the waste of energy; and the other is to develop our own sources of energy to replace foreign imports so that we can have control our own destiny. And with your help, I promise to do exactly that.

I believe Americans will join together if there is good leadership at every level of government, not only from the White House but from the courthouse as well. There must be clear, fair goals and programs, and we must implement courageously, sometimes without regard to political consequences, the programs that we know are best for the people who've chosen us to lead.

Let me start by making clear what our priorities for using the present oil supplies are right now. My first priority as President is to protect the lives and the wellbeing of all Americans. Therefore, our emergency services, such as police, fire, and health, must be maintained. So must the essentials of food and shelter.

We must have fuel to produce and to distribute food. We must have heating fuel to prevent suffering next winter in almost every part of this country, and particularly, of course, in the northern States.

We've drawn down our winter fuel stocks because of the earlier supply cutoff from Iran, which I've already mentioned. We simply must build them back. We are doing so now, and we will meet the goal that I've established for our Nation.

We will distribute limited supplies gasoline fairly and equitably among the motorists of this country. There are things we can do to manage the current shortage of energy. We can do it better, and we will get this done.

We are pressing the refineries, for instance, to increase their production of fuel and heating oil. As a byproduct this will also produce more gasoline, as well.

We are requiring the oil industry to cooperate. If they do not cooperate voluntarily, we will not hesitate to use the authority that I have to require the oil companies to meet the basic energy needs of our Nation. The oil companies must cooperate.

I have ordered almost 200 auditors into the field to ensure that the Nation's refiners comply with the law, and another 400 will be sent to monitor fuel jobbers and dealers. At my direction, the Department of Justice and the Department of Energy are jointly investigating the oil companies to see if the current shortage involves any improper or illegal activity. We will bring the full force of the law to bear on those who profiteer from our national shortage or who try to cheat the American public.

We now have an independent accounting firm checking on the effectiveness of the new Department of Energy in verifying oil industry data. It's very difficult to get accurate information, but I want to make sure that the information that is achieved by us and is distributed to the American people is absolutely accurate.

I'm ordering the Energy Information Administration, which is an independent group, to send its weekly report to our news media throughout the country, telling what are our present energy supplies that week. I would like the interested American public, individual citizens like you, to be just as familiar with the energy situation as you are with local weather reports.

But again, let me be totally honest with you and very direct. All of this that I have described to you does not save oil and it does not create oil. In the short term, we will simply have to stretch out a limited supply. We will have to play a kind of shuffling game, allocating limited supplies of oil among our farmers, our truckers, our homeowners, industry, and also, of course, among motorists.

This will have to go on until our longterm efforts start paying off. Therefore, I urge the Congress to give me power to set mandatory State-by-State conservation goals and to impose mandatory conservation. If a State fails to meet its target, I want to give local and State officials authority first and hope that all of you and all Governors will carry out this responsibility. If you do not, then I will act from Washington as President.

Congress must also act finally to give me authority to develop a standby gasoline rationing plan. It is absolutely crucial for us to arm ourselves against the possibility of further serious interruptions in our energy supplies. We never know when we might lose a major portion of our oil imports. If this happens, a gasoline rationing plan will help us distribute those limited supplies fairly.

But I want to now mention the most important thing of all. Every single American must stop wasting energy. These are some of the things that we can do to defend ourselves in the immediate crisis.

More than 2 years ago, you may remember, I called the energy crisis the moral equivalent of war. There were a lot of jokes about it from the oil industry and from the news media. Now the battle has been joined. This time there can be no delay, this time there can be no retreat.

Last night I set forth a general strategy for winning the energy war, one which will enable us to meet all America's new energy needs from America's own energy resources. We will have to succeed both by conservation and production, because from this time forth we will never import one drop of oil more than we did 2 years ago in 1977. I am drawing our line of defense here and now.

Now I'm going to mention one of the biggest figures you ever heard. Overall we're going to take the unparalleled peacetime commitment, an investment of $140 billion, for American energy Security, so that never again will our Nation's independence be hostage to foreign oil.

Where is the money coming from? All of this investment of Federal funds must come from the windfall profits tax on the oil industry, which I have proposed to the Congress. It's now more critical than it ever was that Congress swiftly pass a strong, permanent windfall profits tax. And I want each of you as county leaders and all Americans who hear my voice to bring your full power to bear to make sure that Congress acts to give the American people the financial weapons to win the energy war.

Let me brief you now on some of the new points of attack.

Each year I will set targets for the amount of foreign oil we import. I'm today announcing a quota for this year, 1979, which will hold U.S. imports to 8.2 million barrels per day—300,000 below the ceilings we set at the Tokyo summit and 400,000 barrels per day below what we used in 1977. And we will meet this goal.

The energy security corporation that I proposed last night to produce American energy from new sources will not be-will not be—just another Federal agency. It will be outside the Federal Government, outside the Federal bureaucracy, free to use its independent business judgment in order to produce enough alternate energy sources to meet its 10-year target of reducing our imports by 2 1/2 million barrels of oil per day.

I'm announcing new incentives for the production of heavy oil, oil shale, and hard-to-get-at natural gas—all of which this country has in great abundance.

To make certain that energy projects such as critical pipelines, port facilities, production plants are built, a new energy mobilization board will slash through redtape and bureaucratic obstacles and will set absolute deadlines for action at the Federal, State, and local level. We are leaving with State and local authorities the first line of responsibility to remove roadblocks to these critical projects, but our energy crisis is so severe that if any level of government fails to act within a reasonable time, this board will see to it that action is taken, just as similar boards made sure that action was taken to protect our Nation's existence in World War II. It's time for us to take this bold action, and we will.

I want to make energy goals as compelling to every homeowner and every renter as for business and industry. Utilities must shift from oil to coal. But I'm also proposing to Congress a unique new program to require gas and electric utility companies to provide low-cost loans to their customers, the homeowners of America, to finance conservation improvements, repayable only at the time of sale of the home.

I'm proposing another program that will offer incentives to convert homes that are now oil-heated to natural gas and to help oil-heated homes which cannot convert with conservation.

I've earmarked $16.5 billion in new funds for the next 10 years to improve buses, subways, and other mass transit, and to build more fuel-efficient automobiles.

Recognizing that low-income families have been hardest hit by the OPEC price increases and rising energy costs in general, I'm proposing to triple the size of the assistance program which I recommended to Congress on April 5. This will also be paid for out of the windfall profits tax, which Congress is already considering.

In addition, we'll be expanding the weatherization program to improve homes and to make them more efficient in conserving energy.

I want to explain one thing very clearly, because misinformation is being spread among the American people. And I want you to listen to this.

We are working very closely with Mexico and Canada. The total quantity of production and export of oil and gas from Mexico is obviously a decision to be made by the people and the Government of Mexico. But we now purchase more than 80 percent of all the oil exported by Mexico—more than 80 percent. We are now negotiating a new agreement to purchase the natural gas which Mexico will be willing to export.

Although Canada's oil production will be steadily dropping during the next few years, we will continue to share hydro, electric power and other energy sources with our neighbor to the north. One major project will be the new pipeline to be built from Alaska through Canada to bring natural gas to the lower 48 States.

By 1985 Alaskan and Canadian natural gas can displace almost 700,000 barrels of imported oil per day. The North Slope producers have dragged their feet in helping to finance a pipeline needed to bring that gas to market. I've instructed the Secretary of Energy to call them in and get them going, and I will insist personally that this gas pipeline be built without further delay.

We are and we will continue to be a good customer, a good neighbor, and a good trading partner with both Mexico and with Canada.

This Nation will need to rely on a broad range of energy sources. The hard fact is that we depend on nuclear power now for 13 percent of all the electricity consumed in the United States.

A few communities—for instance, Chicago—derive more than 50 percent of all their electricity from nuclear powerplants. The recommendations of Kemeny Commission investigating the Three Mile Island incident will help us to ensure safety, but nuclear power must play an important role in the United States to ensure our energy future.

In June I set an ambitious but important goal for meeting 20 percent of the Nation's energy needs from the Sun by the year 2000. With steeply rising OPEC prices and greater supply uncertainties, attainment of this goal is more important than it ever was. No cartel can control the price of solar power. No country can embargo solar power.

We've already tripled our Federal investment in solar energy, and the new solar bank that I have proposed will permit all Americans to join in making widespread solar power use a reality.

The actions that I've already taken with Congress the last 2 years will reduce our projected imports of foreign oil by 4 million barrels per day. The new actions I've described for you last night and today will save us an additional 4 1/2 million barrels of oil, foreign oil, a day below what we are presently consuming, by the year 1990. I'm going to keep these initiatives moving, and every one of us, public official and private citizen, must keep up this pressure for progress.

Our basic strategy is as clear as it can be. Together you and I and every American are simply going to change the way this society creates and uses its energy. And as we do, we're going to find ourselves growing stronger, more free, and more confident at home and around the world.

As the recent positive decision made by Saudi Arabia to increase production has shown, forceful action by this country proving that we are going to save energy can encourage moderation on the part of some of the OPEC nations and make us better able to deal with all the others. The important thing I want to get across today is that each action every one of us takes will not only improve our own lives but affect the future of the world.

The heartbreaks and the triumphs of each county, each city, each neighborhood, the successes or the failures are also the successes and failures, the triumphs and the heartbreaks of our Nation. The tragedy of an elderly family who are not able to pay for heat in the winter is a national tragedy, just as the success of a local weatherization program or carpool program is a triumph of or success for the whole Nation.

I ask you to work with me throughout the counties of America to plan conservation efforts that go beyond attempts to convince people that an energy crisis is real. Together we must challenge people to make specific actions possible, as workers, employers, commuters, customers, homeowners, renters, all put together, can really comprise a genuine, workable national effort.

It's easy for us to try to leave the job for others, to the Federal Government, to the oil companies, to OPEC. We must not do that. We will not do that. That's what I want you to do for our country. I want you to make it possible for every citizen who lives in your county to join in setting local conservation standards and targets.

I'm not asking now that the leaders of every county in the country work to create another government agency. I want you to have a group of your best private citizens to look at the needs and resources that you have in your own communities, to evaluate your strengths and your weaknesses, and agree with your own tactics in your own way to meet local conservation targets.

As you work with local citizens and community leaders in taking up this call to action, you can count on the support and you can count on the help of Federal officials, including myself, to live and to work with you to make this dream, this challenge a reality. I will put all Federal employees—agriculture, forestry, HUD, HEW, welfare, whatever—on notice that they must cooperate with county officials to cut out the waste of energy in your county.

In your county you are vital local leaders. I know you can get the job done, and you certainly deserve the help of the officials from the President on down in our Federal Government. You can enforce the law on speed limits. You can enforce the new regulations on building thermostat settings. There is a $10,000 fine for setting the thermostat on a public building lower than 78 degrees in the summer and higher than 65 degrees in the winter. I intend to enforce it, and I intend to have your help in making sure that it is enforced.

You can make sure that gasoline consumption is reduced by improving public transit, by dealing with county vehicles. You can help business and industry and government employers develop ride-sharing carpools, to stagger working hours, and to reduce employee workday travel.

Some communities have done so. My wife was recently in Davis, California, for instance, which has done a tremendous job and slashed total energy use more than 35 percent below what it used to be. In so doing we're better able to understand ourselves, and we are better able to understand other tough choices that America must meet in facing the challenges of the future.

For example, last January, I set forth an austere budgetary policy for fiscal 1980, working toward a balanced Federal budget in the future to meet our serious inflation problem. I intend to hold that course steady and to enforce the program I've put forward to deal with successfully the inflation problem of our Nation. If we fail to do so, American workers, businesses, consumers will lose faith in the Government's willingness to cope with inflation. The value of the dollar would weaken and further aggravate our inflation rate.

I will also not hesitate to take action to avoid a serious recession. Now more than ever, Congress must enact our existing proposals, which you helped to develop, for targeted fiscal assistance and countercyclical aid to hard-pressed local governments when the unemployment rate goes up very much. These are proposals which are important, but inflation is still our Nation's most serious economic problem, and I'm determined to stick with my policies to fight inflation. And also here I need and expect your help.

In closing, let me say this: You are fellow public servants along with me. These are the kinds of choices that I have to make, because finally I only have one constituency—all the people of this Nation. These are people that you represent. Every one of your constituents is a constituent of mine. For 203 years, our Nation has stood proud and free. We have met challenge after challenge. We've overcome them all for one fundamental reason. In a crisis, we Americans have always stood together.

On the way here from Washington this morning on the airplane, Congressman Ike Skelton gave me a letter, and I'd like to read it to you.

"Mr. President: You will recall that I was a polio patient at Warm Springs, Georgia, in the late 1940's. While I was there, I copied Franklin D. Roosevelt's undelivered address where the original is located. From that speech, may I suggest that you use his words that ended the speech as follows, and I quote from Roosevelt, 'The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.'"

And Ike Skelton continues, "I memorized those words as a teenager, and they summarized what you said last night in your address to the Nation. Most respectfully, your friend, Ike Skelton."

We have had some serious doubts in our Nation about our Nation. Today, not only our Nation's economy but our very independence is threatened. Our freedom is beyond price. We must not let it be endangered by the energy problem. As a people, as a nation, let us join together in our struggle to secure our Nation's energy independence with all the fullness that we have in our great Nation and our will to live in freedom. We must fight together for our Nation, and, together with our renewed dedication and our renewed faith in America, we will again, as Americans, join together, lead our Nation to victory. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. in the H. Roe Bartle Convention Center ballroom. His remarks were broadcast live on radio and television.

Jimmy Carter, Kansas City, Missouri Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Counties. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249459

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