Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks to Lincoln Land Community College Students and Local Residents in Springfield, Illinois

September 22, 1980

I'm really delighted to be here at Lincoln Land College. I've just had a chance to have a personal introduction to one of the gasohol plants here—ethanol. I've also been told by Dr. Poorman that there are windmills on the campus. He says the electric bill goes down greatly when political speeches are made. [Laughter] We sometimes get enough to light up half the city of Springfield. So, I'm glad to be here today as a student and a promoter of new energy sources, and I guess I'm delighted to be an energy source today.

Alan Dixon is a great public servant of Illinois, and I want to express my deep personal thanks to him for his introduction. I was not in the car 5 minutes with him before he pointed out that although Illinois has one of the greatest records of any State in contributing to our national treasury, according to his figures it ranks 50th in getting Federal funds back to help the people of Illinois. I have no doubt that when Alan Dixon gets to the United States Senate that he and I will make a good partnership for the State of Illinois next year. He's already gotten me to promise to meet with him and with the Secretary of Transportation, Neil Goldschmidt, to look into the problem of Highway 51 from Rockford to Cairo and also the Central Illinois Expressway from Quincy eastward across the State.

Transportation is crucial in a modern society. And today I want to confine my own remarks to that of energy. I'll be going from here to California and then to Oregon and then to the State of Washington. One of the most important things that we can remember is the importance of addressing serious problems in a courageous and united way. Energy security is crucial to the well-being of every family in this country and crucial to the wellbeing of our Nation as it faces the years ahead.

We face the possibility of two different energy futures in the years to come. It's a choice that will affect all of us in this audience. It's a choice that will affect the grandchildren that we will have in the years ahead. It will determine the kind of world that we'll have and the kind of role that the United States of America will play in that world. It will determine to some extent whether or not we live at peace. Let me put the choice to you as simply as possible. Will America have a secure future based on reliable sources of energy, from sources both as old as the Sun and as new as the new synthetic fuels we're producing, or will we face a precarious dangerous future at the mercy of uncertain supplies and uncontrollable prices?

What I've seen today here on this campus and across the land in recent weeks convinces me that Americans are ready and eager and capable of reversing our unwarranted dependence on foreign oil to give us a secure nation in the future. If you'll help me, we'll do that together. From the very moment I assumed the Presidency of this Nation and took the oath of office, this has been one of the major themes that I have described to the American people. I have maintained that the energy problem is a clear and a present danger to our lives and also to our livelihood, both as individuals and as a nation.

We're at the receiving end of a 12,000-mile supply line. And as you know, at the other end of that supply line is danger and uncertainty and turmoil, and until this year at the other end of that supply line was one-half the oil that we used. That imported oil in 1980 will cost us $85 billion. That's hard to envision, but it means that every man, woman, and child in the United States of America will send overseas to buy foreign oil $400 this year. That's more than the net income of the top 500 corporations in the United States. The scope of it is sobering and emphasizes the importance of it.

Just as foreign oil drives our cars, its ever-increasing use drives inflation. And along with inflation and oil which we import, we also have been importing unemployment, declining productivity in this country, and scarcity and poverty and even the downfall of government in the less developed countries of the world. It's impossible to overemphasize the seriousness of this threat and the greatness of the opportunity involved. Inflation brought about by foreign oil purchases affects the quality of our schools, our tax burdens, our health care, and other social services. It shakes the security of retired Americans, and it makes less hopeful the future of young Americans. It hurts all of us, not just by causing inconvenience but by undermining our society itself.

These are not pleasant facts; they're hard facts, and it's been hard for America to face them. After the first big OPEC oil price increase in 1973, along with an Arab oil embargo, the administration which was in power then declared that the energy crisis was over and did absolutely nothing to prepare us for the long, hard struggle ahead. The result was predictable. Between 1972 and 1977, our oil imports just about doubled, from 4 1/2 million barrels a day to 8 1/2 million barrels of foreign oil bought per day. While domestic production of oil—particularly of oil-declined year by year, America did not search for more oil and natural gas. America did not develop alternative sources, and America did not develop a good conservation program.

Now, finally, we have a national energy policy, and its results already are a fact of life for Americans. We are proving in this country already that we can produce more, discover more, create more, and conserve more energy, and we can use American resources, American knowledge, and American labor to do it. That's a major step forward. Thanks to you, our country is on the right road to security and to more progress.

Just a few quick figures. At the last count there were more than 3,000 drilling rigs operating in the United States, more than at any time in the last 25 years. More new oil and gas wells will be drilled in 1980 than in any other year in the history of our country. We've launched a massive synthetic and renewable fuels program to turn our coal and shale and farm products into fuel for our cars and trucks and to turn the light of the Sun into heat and electricity for our homes. There are 10 times more homes in the United States now using solar power than there were just 4 years ago.

Our strides in energy conservation are just as noteworthy. Net oil imports are down 1 1/2 million barrels per day, which means that this year we'll buy 20 percent less oil from overseas than we did last year. And every day we'll buy between 1 1/2 million and 2 million barrels less oil from overseas than we did just a year or so ago. And during the most recent weeks we have actually imported one-third less oil than during the same time last year.

The American people have come to learn that energy saved means money saved, for ourselves as individuals, for our families, and also for our Nation. The soul of our energy policy is this—that there are a lot of different, complex, but exciting roads to energy security, and they must all be explored.

I also want to point out here in Illinois that we are mining more American coal in 1980 than in any other year in history, and we're exporting vast quantities of it. What I want to see in the future is for OPEC oil, as a major world energy source, to be replaced with Illinois coal. With the synthetic fuels program, as you know, high-sulphur coal—in the past has been difficult to burn because of air quality standards—can be made into clean-burning oil and natural gas.

We also have a major goal that 20 percent of all the energy used in the United States by the year 2000 will come directly from the Sun, either through growing crops or from solar heat—energy that's renewable, nonpolluting, and of course, it cannot be embargoed. In 1981 alone, we'll spend more than $1 billion on energy research from the Sun. In 1975, 2 years after the oil embargo, the previous administration spent only about $50 million on solar power. This means that in that brief period of time, because the American people have awakened to the opportunities of solar power, we have multiplied that program 20 times over.

We've been blessed by God with tremendous natural resources. All the Arab OPEC nations put together have about 6 percent of the world's energy reserves. The United States of America has 24 percent. We've got, as you well know, more oil locked up in our shale plus a lot more locked up in coal than three Saudi Arabias put together, and through our new synthetic fuels industry, we can tap that resource now, efficiently and competitively.

Our strong emphasis on gasohol will make farmers more self-sufficient and all Americans more secure. Eighteen months ago virtually no gasohol was being produced in this country. We now have the capacity to produce 135 million gallons of ethanol, and by 1981, next year, we should reach 500 million gallons of ethanol. My goal is that by the end of 1990 we'll produce enough alcohol fuel to replace 10 percent of all America's gasoline use. I want to be sure that you understand the advantage not only to our country but to Illinois, because growing crops, with your beautiful productive land and extremely high deposits of coal here, will open a vista of a new life of prosperity and excitement and achievement for the people who reside in the great State of Illinois.

I'm not going to take more time to emphasize to you the production of new energy. I would like to say this, though: It's vital that we increase conservation, that we use energy more efficiently. The quickest, cheapest, and cleanest energy is the energy that we do not waste. And at the same time we must conserve the quality of our air and our water and our land. All the programs that I've described to you will be carried out without lowering at all the standards for environmental quality. In our haste to develop, we must not weaken our environmental standards. We must not forget that whenever we dig coal or shale or tar sands that we dig into the living earth and that wherever we produce waste, we affect the water that we drink and the air we breathe.

But the new Republican leaders, they have a hard time believing that this program is effective and that it cannot be defined in very simple terms. Their energy program, I'd like to point out to you, has only two parts. First is to turn the oil companies loose. They'd like to do away with the windfall profits tax and trust the major oil companies to take care of our energy problem. And the second one is worse—to ignore or to reverse our hard-won gains in solar energy, gasohol, synthetic fuels, and conservation.

They fought the windfall profits tax every step of the way. Their vision of the future does not include research and development on new sources of energy or the revival of old ones such as small hydroelectric dams. They apparently do not understand that we must wage our energy fight on many fronts, public, private, and individual. They seem to want us to solve the energy crisis the same way they want us to fight inflation, by just consuming more and letting the future take care of itself. That's exactly how we got in trouble in the first place. As for nuclear waste, they simply say all the waste in a year from a nuclear powerplant could be stored under a desk. They seem to be content to let it go at that.

For the first time in 35 years, we have now proposed to the Congress a comprehensive program for permitting our nuclear industry to continue as it does in Illinois and at the same time take care of nuclear waste disposal, with the State playing the major role. Nothing about this entire program is simple. It's complicated; it's interrelated. But we're well on our way. We spent the 1970's getting • this program intact, going through very difficult times.

Now, on the energy program that I've described to you so briefly, we can build the industrial complex of our Nation with modern tools, modern factories, an exciting life, secure families, secure nation, to give us the challenge which America has always been able to meet. It's not a time to eliminate conservation, to stop making sure that homes are efficient, or to eliminate the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, which even the oil companies support. Nothing could be a sharper contrast concerning the future.

I want the private sector, the free enterprise system of our Nation to play the major role in our energy future. In fact, all of the actual production that I've outlined to you today we envisage as being in the hands of private enterprise, not the Federal Government. But I want us all to participate in our national energy policy, not only myself as President but every one of you. All of us can contribute to it; all of us can benefit from it. Our goal is nothing less than changing the way America produces, uses, and even thinks about energy, and that's the most exciting single undertaking in the last part of the 20th century.

In the past when we switched from wood to coal and then later on from coal to oil, those changes brought only better things to Americans, better lifestyles, more leisure time, essentials like electricity and heat. Now as we switch from foreign oil to American fuels, we stand only to gain again, for our economy, our security, and our confidence.

Let me say, in closing, this: It's exciting for me to come here to be with you to describe as President one of the greatest challenges our Nation has ever faced. We are at peace. We have kept our Nation at peace. But we also must prepare for the future and have a nation that's secure. As long as our industrial system depends upon foreign oil 12,000 miles away, we rob ourselves of money, of jobs, of a better life, and we make our Nation vulnerable to blackmail and the interruption of our foreign policy by that excessive dependence.

When I made a speech in April of 1977 and called the energy crisis the moral equivalent of war, a lot of people did not believe it, but it was true. And now the American people and the Congress have put together an energy policy for our Nation that will stand us in good stead. Our country has never failed to answer a question, to solve a problem, or to overcome an obstacle when we could understand the challenge clearly and work together toward the future. That's where we've come already. And I'm determined that the future of this country will be a bright one, exciting, dynamic, challenging, unifying, and that we approach that future with confidence.

I'm determined, with your help, in energy and other elements of American life, to make sure that in future years the greatest nation on Earth will be even greater.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:06 a.m. in the dining room of Menard Hall at the Lincoln Land Community College. In his remarks, he referred to Alan Dixon, Illinois secretary of state and Democratic candidate for the United States Senate.

Prior to his remarks, the President viewed a demonstration of a corn mash gasohol still, a student energy conservation project headed by Dr. Robert L. Poorman, president of the college.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks to Lincoln Land Community College Students and Local Residents in Springfield, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251513

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