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Special Message to the Congress Proposing Emergency Energy Legislation

November 08, 1973

To the Congress of the United States:

As America has grown and prospered in recent years, our demands for energy have begun to outstrip available supplies. Along with other major industrialized nations, we are now faced with the prospect of shortages for several years to come.

Two years ago, in the first energy message ever sent to the Congress by a President of the United States, I called attention to the looming energy problem. Since that time, I have repeatedly warned that the problem might become a full-blown crisis, and seeking to minimize shortages, I have taken a number of administrative steps to increase supplies and reduce consumption. Earlier this year, I also sent more 'than a half dozen urgent legislative proposals to the Congress. While none of these has yet been enacted, I am hopeful at least several of the measures will be ready for my signature before year's end.

Unfortunately, the energy crisis that once seemed a distant threat to many people is now closing upon us quickly. We had expected moderate shortages of energy this winter, but four weeks ago, when war broke out in the Middle East, most of our traditional suppliers in that area cut off their shipments of oil to the United States. Their action has now sharply changed our expectations for the coming months.

Largely because of the war, we must face up to the stark fact that we are heading toward the most acute shortages of energy since the Second World War. Of the 17 million barrels of oil a day that we would ordinarily consume this winter, more than two million barrels a day will no longer be available to us. Instead of a shortage of approximately 2-3 percent that we had anticipated this winter, we now expect that our supply of petroleum will be .at least 10 percent short of our anticipated demands--and could fall short by as much as 17 percent.


Faced with this emergency, I believe that we must move forward immediately on two fronts: administrative and legislative.

In a speech to the Nation last night, I announced a number of immediate actions:

First, industries and utilities which use coal---our most abundant resource--will be prevented from converting to oil. Efforts will also be made to convert power plants from the use of oil to the use of coal.

Second, reduced quantities of fuel will be allocated to aircraft. This will lead to a cutback of some 10 percent in the number of commercial flights, but it should not seriously disrupt air travel nor cause serious damage to the airline industry.

Third, there will be reductions of approximately 15 percent in the supply of heating oil for homes, offices and other establishments. This is a precautionary measure to ensure that the oil now available not be consumed early in the winter, so that we shall have adequate amounts available in the later months. This step will make it necessary for all of us to live and work in lower temperatures. We must ask everyone to lower the thermostat in his home by at least 6 degrees, so that we can achieve a national daytime average of 68 degrees. In offices, factories and commercial establishments we must ask that the equivalent of a I o-degree reduction be achieved by either lowering the thermostat or curtailing working hours.

Fourth, there will be additional reductions in the consumption of energy by the Federal Government, cutting even deeper than the 7 percent reduction that I ordered earlier this year. This new reduction will affect the operations of every agency and department in the Government, including the Defense Department, which has already led the way in previous cutbacks. As one of the steps in this Federal effort, I have ordered that daytime temperatures in Federal offices be reduced to a level between 65 and 68 degrees. I have also ordered that all vehicles owned by the Federal Government be driven no faster than 50 miles per hour except in emergencies. This is a step which I have also asked Governors, mayors, and other local officials to take immediately with regard to vehicles under their authority.

Fifth, I have asked the Atomic Energy Commission to speed up the licensing and construction of nuclear plants, seeking to reduce the time required to bring nuclear plants on line from ten years to six years.

Sixth, I have also asked Governors and mayors to reinforce these actions by taking appropriate steps at the State and local level. Among the steps which I believe would be helpful are these: staggering of working hours, the encouragement of mass transit and carpooling, alteration of school schedules, and elimination of unnecessary lighting. I have also recommended to the Governors that, consistent with safety and economic considerations, they seek to reduce highway speed limits to 50 miles per hour. This step alone could save over 200,000 barrels of oil a day.


As essential as these actions are to the solution of our immediate problem, we must recognize that standing alone, they are insufficient. Additional steps must be taken, and for that purpose, we must have new legislation.

I am therefore proposing that the Administration and the Congress join forces and together, in a bipartisan spirit, work to enact an emergency energy bill. Members of my Administration have been consulting with appropriate leaders of the Congress for more than two weeks on this matter. Yesterday I met with the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate and found them constructive in spirit and eager to get on with the job. In the same manner, I pledge the full cooperation of my Administration. It is my earnest hope that by pushing forward together, we can have new emergency legislation on the books before the Congress recesses in December.

Based on previous consultations with the Congress, I have decided not to send a specific Administration bill to the Congress on this matter but rather to work with the Members in developing a measure that would be acceptable to both the executive and legislative branches. As part of that process, I think it would be helpful to call attention to those provisions that I think should be included in this emergency bill. At a minimum, I hope that the act would:

---Authorize restrictions on both the public and private consumption of energy by such measures as limitations on essential uses of energy (office hours, for instance) and elimination of non-essential uses (decorative lighting, for example);

--Authorize the reduction to 50 miles per hour of speed limits on highways across the country;

--Authorize the exemption or granting of waivers of stationary sources from Federal and State air and water quality laws and regulations. Such actions would be taken through the Administrator of EPA.

--Authorize the exemption of steps taken under the proposed energy emergency act from the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).

--Provide emergency powers for the Federal regulatory agencies involved in transportation to adjust the operations of air, rail, ship and motor carriers in a manner responsive to the need to conserve fuel.

--Empower the Atomic Energy Commission to grant a temporary operating license of up to 18 months for nuclear power plants without holding a public hearing. Such actions would be subject to all safety and other requirements normally imposed by the Commission.

--Authorize the initiation of full production in Naval Petroleum Reserve #1 (Elk Hills, California) and the exploration and further development of other Naval Petroleum Reserves, including Naval Petroleum Reserve #4 in Alaska.

--Permit Daylight Saving Time to be established on a year-round basis.

--And authorize the President, where practicable, to order a power plant or other installation to convert from the use of a fuel such as oil to another fuel such as coal and to make such equipment conversions as are necessary.

In addition to the provisions above, all of which I believe must be enacted before December, there are a number of other authorities which should be provided as soon as possible and hopefully will be included in the emergency measure.

One such provision would grant the President additional authority to allocate and ration energy supplies. Under this new authority, the President could take such actions based solely upon energy considerations. It is my hope that rationing of energy products will never be required, but if circumstances dictate it, there should be no impediments to swift action. For contingency purposes, I have already directed that plans for gasoline rationing be drawn up and held in reserve.

Recognizing that a more efficient use of our transportation resources is necessary, we should also provide additional authority to encourage greater use of funds from the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 for mass transit capital improvements.

In addition, we should provide the Federal Power Commission with authority, during the duration of the energy emergency, to suspend 'the regulation of prices of new natural gas at the wellhead.

Finally, I believe it would be wise if, on energy grounds, the President were empowered to exercise any authority now contained in the Defense Production Act, the Economic Stabilization Act and the Export Administration Act, even though those acts may have otherwise expired.


As we act to deal with the immediate problem before us, we must not ignore the need for preventing such a crisis from recurring. The lead-times required to meet our long-range energy needs dictate that we must move on them at once.

Legislation authorizing construction of the Alaskan pipeline must be the first order of business as we tackle our long-range energy problems. The American people are depending upon the Congress to enact this legislation at the earliest possible moment, and they are depending upon me to approve it. With passage apparently imminent, I would urge the Congress not to burden this legislation with irrelevant amendments. This is no time to hold the Nation's energy future hostage to other controversial interests.

I am also requesting early action on pending legislative proposals to:

--permit the competitive pricing of new natural gas;

--provide reasonable standards for the surface mining of coal;

--provide simplified procedures for the siting and approving of electric energy facilities;

--establish a Department of Energy and Natural Resources;

--and provide procedures for approving construction and operation of deepwater ports.

Because of the critical role which energy research and development will play in meeting our future energy needs, I am requesting the Congress to give priority attention to the creation of an Energy Research and Development Administration separate from my proposal to create a Department of Energy and Natural Resources. This new administration would direct the $10 billion program aimed at achieving a national capacity for energy self-sufficiency by 1980.

This new effort to achieve self-sufficiency in energy, to be known as Project Independence, is absolutely critical to the maintenance of our ability to play our independent role in international affairs. In addition, we must recognize that a substantial part of our success in building a strong and vigorous economy in this century is attributable to the fact that we have always had access to almost unlimited amounts of cheap energy. If this growth is to continue, we must develop our capacity to provide enormous amounts of clean energy at the lowest possible cost. Thus, irrespective of the implications for our foreign policy and with the implicit understanding that our intentions are not remotely isolationist, the increasing costs of foreign energy further contribute to the necessity of our achieving self-sufficiency in energy.


The White House,

November 8, 1973.

Richard Nixon, Special Message to the Congress Proposing Emergency Energy Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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