Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks on Signing Into Law the Emergency Energy Conservation Act of 1979

November 05, 1979

THE PRESIDENT. This is a very good occasion in the evolution of an acceptable energy policy for our country. We face at all times the possibility of an emergency shortage, a very severe reduction in supplies of gasoline and diesel fuel for the transportation of the people of America. And I want to thank very much the key Members of the House and Senate-there's no way to name them all—who've been instrumental in passing this Emergency Energy Conservation Act of 1979, quite often referred to as the gas rationing bill.

This has been a difficult issue because of the necessity for evolving a fair allocation of gasoline and diesel fuel if our Nation does face a severe shortage. Majority Leader Byrd in the Senate and Majority Leader Jim Wright in the House, Senator Jackson, Senator Johnston, Senator Domenici, John Dingell in the House, and the Wirth, Bud Brown, Toby Moffett, and many others have helped to make this legislation possible.

I'm very grateful to have the opportunity as President now to evolve a gas and diesel fuel rationing proposal which will be presented to the Congress and to the public over the next few months. This is an important responsibility. Charlie Duncan, the Secretary of Energy, is here. It'll primarily be his Department which will build on the previous proposal, and to provide additions or corrections to it to accommodate the desires of the American people, as expressed by the Congress.

This has not been an easy piece of legislation to pass. [Laughter] I don't think anyone standing behind me would disagree with that fact. It's been a laborious and detailed negotiation, and if we do face a severe shortage, then I have adequate authority. If the shortage is prospective in nature, the prospect of a severe shortage, then with the concurrence of the Congress, the time for the implementation of the rationing plan can be abbreviated.

I'm very happy that this has been accomplished. We now face additional major decisions in the House and Senate. This week, for instance, the Senate will vote on the energy security corporation: legislation which will permit our Nation to strengthen our defenses, to avoid a direct threat to our Nation's security, with a heavy emphasis of conservation as a first step, on a short-term basis; and increasing emphasis in the middle term of gasohol and other more readily available energy measures; and then in the longer run, geothermal supplies, solar energy, and synthetic fuels.

Without the energy security corporation, it would be almost impossible to have synthetic fuels and other supplies developed on a competitive basis; we'll have an almost complete domination of energy supply opportunities in our country by just a few major oil companies. So, the passage of the energy security corporation this week by the Senate is crucial to provide competition, to let our Nation have adequate energy supplies, and also, of course, to implement a major additional conservation effort—all of these factors to contribute to our Nation's security.

I might say in closing that I'm very grateful to the men and the women of the House and Senate who have labored so long over this legislation. I'd like to sign the bill now, and then I'd like to call on a couple of people to say a word for their colleagues in the House and Senate.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

I will try to do a good job working with Charlie Duncan to justify your confidence in us and present to you a rationing program that will be acceptable, adequate, fair, and which would bring joy to the eyes of all of us.

I'd like to call on John Dingell to say a word.

REPRESENTATIVE DINGELL. Mr. President, thank you for the kind words you said about my colleagues and I in the House who did work very hard on this, as you know. It was a bipartisan undertaking at the end. [Laughter]

SENATOR DOMENICI. We just straightened it out for you.

THE PRESIDENT. And there were some bipartisan obstructions at the beginning. [Laughter]

REPRESENTATIVE DINGELL. As a matter of fact, you're correct. [Laughter]

But, Mr. President, the men you see standing behind you, and I won't mention their names, but people like Toby and Phil and Bill and Bud and Jim Broyhill and a number of my colleagues who are not here and our distinguished colleagues in the Senate, who are well known to you, worked very hard on this, and we think we gave you a good bill.

You are working hard on the energy program of the Nation, and I think you provided very real leadership. And this is just one more evidence of what you have accomplished. And although it is a major stride forward, many very large strides remain, and we all look forward to working with you, because the country needs it.

Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, John. Mr. Domenici?

SENATOR DOMENICI. Thank you, Mr. President.

When I first came to the Senate 7 years ago, if you'd told me that gasoline rationing was as critically important to have as a standby program as this bill is, I would have said it's impossible. But indeed it is.

If you'd also have told me 7 months ago that it was possible to get unanimous action of the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, all together with one bill that pleases the White House, I would have said that's totally fanciful. [Laughter] But here it is. And it's a real indication of teamwork, Mr. President, not only with the White House but with the House and both parties and the recognition of the very serious situation we're in in the country. It's going to take this kind of teamwork to get out of the problem we're in, and I expect to be part of that team.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, you've proven that already, Senator.

Charlie Duncan, would you like to come forward and say a word? Charlie's the one that's got to do all the work. [Laughter]

SECRETARY DUNCAN. One part of the rationing bill that's very important, in my judgment, is the conservation portion of it and the State plans. It's a national problem that lends itself to local initiatives, and I think we've built that into this legislation, and that's a very appropriate thing to do.

THE PRESIDENT. I apologize for not mentioning that myself. I think the crux of this bill is that the first opportunity for conservation programs to be evolved, as wisely decided by the Congress, is at the State level. And the Federal program would only go into effect if it was considered necessary in the absence of an adequate authority or action on the part of the States. I thank you, Charlie, for pointing that out.

Well, my gratitude to all of you. I think we've done the Nation a great service.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:35 a.m. at the ceremony in the Cabinet Room at the White House.

As enacted, S. 1030 is Public Law 96-102, approved November 5.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks on Signing Into Law the Emergency Energy Conservation Act of 1979 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248663

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