Gerald R. Ford photo

Veto of a Bill To Extend Domestic Oil Price Controls.

September 09, 1975

To the Senate of the United States:

I am today vetoing S. 1849, which would extend price controls on domestic oil another six months. I am taking this action because:

1. An extension of price controls would increase our dangerous and growing dependence on imported oil.

2. It would increase the export of jobs and dollars from our economy.

3. It would jeopardize our future economic stability and national security.

4. It would retard conservation of energy.

5. It would postpone the badly needed development and production of new domestic energy.

6. It would negate the possibility of long-range compromise on this problem because of expected Congressional reluctance to tackle the issue of higher oil prices in an election year.

Since 1971, America's bill for imported oil has climbed from just over $3 billion annually to $25 billion today--a 700% increase. This $25 billion could provide more than one million jobs for Americans here at home. We cannot delay longer.

Last January in my State of the Union Message, I proposed to the Congress a comprehensive energy program to make the United States independent of foreign oil by 1985.

The need for such a program grows with each passing day. Right now, the United States is dependent on foreign oil for almost 40 percent of its current needs. If we do not act quickly to reverse this trend, within 10 years, we will import more than half of the oil we need at whatever price is demanded by foreign producers who can cut off our supply any time they want to.

The more foreign oil we import, the more dollars and the more jobs we lose from our economy. And as American jobs and dollars flow out of the country, so does our economic and national security.

The 1973 embargo cost us more than $15 billion in Gross National Product and threw hundreds of thousands of persons out of work. It dramatically showed our vulnerability. Another disruption would be even more costly in dollars and jobs--and could throw us into a new recession.

The detailed legislative program I sent to the Congress last winter involved tough measures to put us immediately on the road to energy independence. It would have conserved the energy we now have and accelerated development and production of more energy here at home.

Because this program would have increased energy prices somewhat until new domestic supplies were developed, I also proposed tax legislation to prevent undue profit-taking by oil companies and to return energy tax dollars to American consumers to offset the slightly higher prices they would pay.

Since I could not gamble with our Nation's security while waiting for the Congress to act on my comprehensive program, I raised the import fees on each barrel of foreign crude oil in February as an interim measure to reduce imports.

The Congress still has not acted. Throughout these months, I have compromised again and again and again to accommodate Congressional requests.

I delayed putting the second dollar fee on imported oil for 90 days, finally imposing it June 1. I delayed the third dollar indefinitely. Still, the country has seen no Congressional action.

In my State of the Union Message last January, I announced a decision to remove the ceiling on price-controlled domestic oil April 1, permitting it to rise from $5.25 per barrel to the free market price. This action would have immediately stimulated production and development of needed additional energy supplies and also encouraged conservation. At the request of Congressional leaders, I postponed such action to give them time to work out a different solution.

After nearly six months without Congressional passage of a decontrol bill or any other positive legislation, I proposed in early July a compromise 30-month phased oil decontrol plan. This program represented an effort to meet the concerns raised by many members of Congress and showed the Administration's willingness to compromise. The House of Representatives rejected this plan.

I made another effort to reach a solution before the August Congressional recess by submitting another decontrol plan, which would have gradually phased out price controls over a 39-month period and put a price ceiling on all domestic oil.

I believe this decontrol plan went more than halfway to meet concerns raised by the Congress. Although it would achieve energy objectives more slowly than warranted, I offered it in the spirit of compromise, because action was desperately needed.

Instead, the House also rejected this compromise attempt and Congress passed this bill which would simply extend the pricing and allocation authorities for another six months. This proposed action would only ensure the continued growth of our dependence on foreign oil.

I cannot approve six more months of delay--delay which would cost needed jobs and dollars and compound our energy and economic problems.

From my experience in the Congress, I am well aware that it will be easier to pass the tough legislation needed to begin solving the energy problem this year rather than during the 1976 election year. The six-month price controls extension contained in the bill I am vetoing would postpone possible action until at least the spring of 1976 and in all likelihood would mean an indefinite delay in our efforts to begin solving this problem.

Despite last minute attempts made in good faith by the Democratic and Republican leadership, their effort to achieve a compromise in the Congress has failed. It is clear that too many Members of the Congress have not come to grips with the decontrol issue--much less the overall energy problem.

We must have a national energy program before we have a national energy emergency. Our time to act instead of react grows shorter with each day and with each delay.

Without price controls on domestic oil, we can reduce dependence upon imported oil by reducing domestic consumption by more than 700,000 barrels per day within two years. We can reduce dependence in the long run by increasing domestic production by nearly one and one-half million barrels per day by 1985. By continuing controls, imports will increase because of a lack of incentives to spur domestic production and the energy problem will get worse and worse.

If my veto is sustained, I still will accept a 45-day extension of price controls to provide time to work with the Congressional leaders who have assured me that they will seek an acceptable compromise during this period. If this further compromise fails, however, I will take the following actions to ensure an orderly transition from government controls to the free market:

--I will remove the previously imposed $2 per barrel import fees on crude oil and a 60 cents fee on petroleum products.

--I will again press the Congress to enact a windfall profits tax with plow back provisions and to return the money collected to the American consumer.

--I will propose legislation to provide a gradual transition from price controls for small and independent refiners.

--I will propose legislation to provide authority to allocate liquified petroleum gases, such as propane, to supply these important fuels at reasonable prices to farmers, rural households and curtailed natural gas users.

--I will seek authority to provide retail service station dealers legal remedies to protect their interests against unwarranted actions by the major oil companies.

Since January, I have gone more than halfway in order to reach a responsible compromise. Obviously, we have talked and delayed long enough. We must act now to protect not only ourselves, but future generations of Americans. I urge Members of the Senate and the House to sustain my veto and get on with the job of meeting this problem head-on.

The continued failure of Members of the Congress to enact a National Energy Program puts us increasingly at the mercy of foreign oil producers and will certainly result in Americans paying substantially higher prices for their fuel.


The White House,

September 9, 1975.

Note: The Senate sustained the President's veto on September 10, 1975.

For the President's statement on the Senate action, see Item 542.

Gerald R. Ford, Veto of a Bill To Extend Domestic Oil Price Controls. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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