Jimmy Carter photo

Louisville, Kentucky Remarks Following a Tour of the Cane Run Generating Station of the Louisville Gas & Electric Company.

July 31, 1979

President Royer, Governor Carroll, Senator Huddleston, Senator Ford, Congressman Mazzoli, and my fellow workers:

It's good to be with you.

One of the interesting and exciting things about being President is to have a chance to travel throughout our great country and to see the challenges which confront us all being met successfully by dedicated men and women like you.

This Power plant, burning American fuel, American coal, both safely and cleanly, is kind of a testimony to the technological genius of America and to the dedication of American working men and women. It's a signpost toward a future of energy security, prosperity for our people, and national strength.

As a people, we are now embroiled in a struggle to meet the challenge of the energy crisis. Most Americans don't even know that we import foreign oil. We actually import about half all the oil we use, which takes more than $50 billion of American money and sends it to foreign nations.

We also know that the oil supplies from foreign countries are not dependable. Back in 1973, 1974, primarily because of political considerations, the oil-supplying nations, the OPEC nations, had an embargo against our country, and some of those countries refused to sell us oil. We still face that possible challenge to our country. This is a struggle not just for the forms of energy we use but for our Nation's very independence, for our economic freedom as Americans.

As President, I will not permit our country to fall further and further each passing year into a dark and dangerous dependence on undependable foreign oil. I have pledged to you that our Nation will never import one drop more foreign oil than we did in 1977. With your help, America will keep that pledge, and I know you'll help me.

It's absolute folly for the United States to ship billions of dollars overseas each year to bring tankers of foreign oil to our shores, while beneath our feet, in your great State of Kentucky and others, lie more than 300 years of coal reserves just waiting to be mined and waiting to be used. It's folly that here in Kentucky, and in other States, we have idle mine capacity, mines not being used, because our Nation has failed so far to develop creative ideas to use our vast coal potential.

The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal. In all the world, the United States owns 31 percent of all the coal reserves. We are blessed with the largest reserves in the whole world. And I'm determined to see our coal supplies light the way of our country toward a future of energy security. I want to see America's coal mines producing—not only new energy supplies for our country but new revenues for our economy, new jobs for the American people, and new security for our Nation.

I have proposed and the Congress is now acting on the most massive peacetime investment in the history of our country-a program to cut our oil imports in half and to change forever the way we use our coal reserves.

First, I want Congress to give me the authority to require utility companies to cut in half their use of oil and to switch to other fuels, especially coal. I want legislation to permit the early retirement of oil-burning power companies [plants] 1 that cannot convert to coal. And I want Congress to provide grants and loans to utilities to make these changes at a reasonable cost to consumers. You have already led the way here in this plant. I want other power companies to follow your leadership.

1 Printed in the transcript.

First of all, we need to conserve energy, to stop wasting energy; and, secondly, to have more direct use of coal. These are the two fastest ways to move toward energy independence, and we must take these steps immediately.

We will also protect our environment. I will not permit America to be forced to choose between breathing foul air and having our waters filthy on the one hand or mortgaging our future to the OPEC oil cartel. We don't need to do either one.

This plant, burning high sulfur coal cleanly and safely, proves that our country can chart a different course for the future. With commitment, with imagination, with national unity, with courage, with America's technological genius and with our vast resources given to us by God, we can meet our energy goals while we preserve the quality of our precious land, air, and water. And we will do it. You have proven here that it can be done.

Secondly, we will launch a massive effort to produce more domestic energy supplies and synthetic fuels—oil and gas from coal.

What I want to do with Congress help is to set up an energy security corporation, a corporation where Americans can own stock and let the private enterprise system of our country, not hamstrung or tied down by government redtape, but funded from a windfall profits tax on the oil companies on their unearned profits to convert coal into oil, to extract new supplies of natural gas, and to process oil from shale. America has talked about starting a synthetic fuels industry for years, even generations. The time has now come to stop talking and start producing oil from coal through a good synthetic fuels program.

One of the most important things with energy security is that it will provide new jobs for America, not jobs exported overseas. We can increase coal production by hundreds of millions of tons in the next 10 years and create as many as 80,000 new jobs in the coal mines alone. As you well know, being from Kentucky, the Nation's number one coal-producing State, a lot of those jobs are going to be in Kentucky, and they'll make your lives and my life both better.

This is going to cost a lot of money. I don't think it ought to be paid for by taxing the American people and going through the Federal budget. Oil prices are going to go up. And what we have proposed to the Congress and what the House of Representatives has already passed is what we call a windfall profits tax. It taxes the oil companies on profits that they do not earn. It leaves with them enough new money to increase production of American oil and gas, but it takes the rest of that money and spends it on the synthetic fuels program, develop better transportation systems, and to increase conservation both in homes and also in the production of power.

If the windfall profits tax is stopped or defeated by the oil lobby, then we will not be able to reach the goals that I've just described to you. And there is a real danger unless your voices are heard that this may happen.

I've talked about the gap between the Government in Washington and the people in our country, about the gap between Washington and the rest of the Nation. Now, here's a perfect and an unfortunate example: The American people overwhelmingly support a tough and a fair tax on the oil companies to give us the financial basis for energy security, new jobs, new production of synthetic fuels, new conservation, a better life for us all. Yet, despite this support, this tax on the unearned profits—and with it, our hopes for energy security—is in danger of being killed or crippled.

I'm very proud that Congressman Mazzoli bas already helped us and that Senator Wendell Ford, who's the chairman of the Senate Coal Caucus, and Senator Dee Huddleston, who's one of the leaders in the Senate, are both with me in this fight. I hope you'll stick with them while they stick with me to give us this tax money, to give us energy security. Will you help do that? [Applause] Right on!

When the Senate passes this bill, we will have the ability to meet our responsibility as a nation and to have the financial weapons to win this energy battle. But this will not happen unless the voices of working Americans like you are heard loud and clear in Washington. You can rest assured that the oil lobbyists' voices are going to be heard loud and clear in Washington. And we need for your voice also to be heard.

With the revenues from a good, tough windfall profits tax and the oil companies, America will be uniquely equipped to win this energy war. We have unsurpassed technology. We have the enormous strength of a free economy. We've got a free enterprise system that's the best on Earth. We've got a democratic Government that the people can run, and we've got dedicated men and women who are not afraid to work if they know what they're working for and they have confidence in the Government and confidence in our own Nation.

The skills of the American people and the dedication and courage of the American people is our single greatest resource. We need all of this to see our battle through. We need to unite with one another. We need to have confidence in our Government, confidence in ourselves, confidence in one another, confidence in the future. We need to set aside our narrow, regional interests and work together to join in a common purpose to strengthen and to serve the country' that we love, the United States of America, the greatest nation on Earth.

You do your part, I'll do my part, and we'll win.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:50 p.m. outside the Cane Run facility. In his opening remarks, he referred to Robert L. Royer, president of Louisville Gas & Electric Company.

Following his remarks, the President met at the facility with a group of coal industry executives.

The White House later issued the following information on the meeting.

At his meeting with coal industry leaders, the President responded to concerns about Government regulations by announcing that he has directed the Regulatory Council to begin an effort to eliminate overlapping and inconsistent Federal and State regulations affecting coal production and coal use.

The Regulatory Council, chaired by Doug Costle of the Environmental Protection Agency and comprised of the Federal Government's major regulatory agencies, was established by the President to improve and simplify the regulatory process. Following the President's directive, the Council will establish a Coal Regulation Project and will immediately begin a comprehensive assessment of regulatory problems affecting the coal industry. The Project will seek information from the industry as well as the public. In today's meeting, the President invited the participants to submit to the Council their specific concerns about particular coal regulations.

In inviting those submissions, however, the President indicated his focus, as well as that of the Council, would be on improving the regulatory process, not on changing the substance of environmental laws. The President stated that those laws could not realistically be changed, and the industry's efforts would be best directed to working within existing laws and to helping pass a strong windfall profits tax, an energy security corporation, and a meaningful energy mobilization board. The President indicated that the tax, the corporation, and the board would provide the funds and the means to meet our energy goals without adversely affecting our health and safety.

Jimmy Carter, Louisville, Kentucky Remarks Following a Tour of the Cane Run Generating Station of the Louisville Gas & Electric Company. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/249961

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