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White House Briefing for Civic and Community Leaders Remarks During a Briefing on Energy and Inflation.

May 06, 1980

First of all, let me say how grateful I am that you would come to the White House for a briefing about matters that are of concern to you and to me and to the rest of our Nation.

It's important in a democracy to realize that a President is only as strong and as capable as his advisers and friends throughout the country. This is a house wherein history has been made by my predecessors and is being made every day, and to have the full involvement of leaders like all of you, who have the respect of your peers at home and who have knowledge and experience so valuable to us all, is indeed exciting for me.

I know that you realize the complexity of issues that confront us during these trying days, both in international matters and also in domestic affairs. There are times when international problems are combined with intense human feelings. This morning I met with the Florida delegation on the extremely difficult problem of Haitian and Cuban refugees seeking asylum in our country. And of course, the hostages being held in Iran are a constant concern to me almost every waking moment. How to resolve this serious problem for humanity and for international interrelationships is indeed a challenge which we have not yet been able to resolve.

I could not help noticing with intense interest the difference in the responsibility assumed by the British Government in protecting the Embassy of Iran compared with the Iranian Government condoning the terrorist attack on our Embassy. And the maintenance of international norms and the maintenance of the standards of human decency are a prerequisite for the orderly progress of any nation, and in particular, Iran.

Their Government is fragmented. They've not been able to implement the results of their so-called revolution. In spite of weeks of attempts, they've not even been able to complete the election for members of their Parliament. Their economy is deteriorating daily. They've been condemned by almost every nation on Earth. And all of it is based upon an inhumane act encouraged by, or at least condoned by, the Government itself.

The prayers and the concerns of all Americans have been demonstrated in this last few months. And I believe that our Nation is remarkably united and uncharacteristically patient in trying to preserve the lives and the safety of our hostages; at the same time, to protect the principles on which our Nation was founded and which we still must preserve.

This afternoon, as you've already learned, the prime subjects at hand are the interrelationship between energy and inflation. I know, in just a very few minutes—I won't take more than 5 more minutes—I will repeat some things that you've already heard, but I thought, from the point of view of the Oval Office, of the White House, of the President, it might be good to repeat them.

The international and national domestic affairs are combined. There is no way to separate them. Inflation is a worldwide problem. Unemployment threats are a worldwide problem. And all of us are suffering, to an increasing degree in recent months, from the extraordinary increase in the price of oil.

In a 16-month period, we've seen a 150-percent increase in the price of oil sold on the international market. This is an inflation rate of 10 percent per month, an extraordinary change in price. And of course, our Nation is seriously and adversely affected in its inflation rate, because we've added this enormous increase in price to a very low average price for American gasoline and oil products compared to other consuming nations.

This year we will send to foreign countries, to buy their oil, about $90 billion, equivalent to the net profit last year of all of the Fortune 500 corporations in our country and equal to $400 for every man, woman, and child in the United States of America. This is the importation not only of large quantities of oil hut also we import, as you well know, both inflation and unemployment.

In just a few weeks, with the conclusion of the mobilization board and security corporation legislation combined with the windfall profits tax and the omnibus bills passed in the last few months, we will finally have a national energy policy that will stand us in good stead in the future. This policy will only accomplish two things in order to cut down the import of foreign oil: One is conservation, a broad approach to eliminating waste of energy in the American societal structure; and the other of the two is the increased production of energy in our own country. To save what we use and to produce more ourselves are the only two answers to excessive imports.

We had anticipated, with the previous growth rate, importing approximately 13 million barrels of oil per day by 1990. We now have a goal, which I believe we will reach, of cutting that down to about 4 1/2 million barrels of oil per day by 1990; perhaps, if we're fortunate, even down to 4 million barrels per day.

This will require a concerted effort by American people. And I think in the last 8 to 10 months, we've had new indications that Americans are indeed conserving, changing our habits, which is not easy for us, recognizing for the first time that there is a tangible limit on natural resources with which God has blessed this country. We've never had to face that fact before. We've always felt that whatever we needed was there, and in most instances that is the case. But it won't hurt us to be better stewards of what we have been given and to protect future generations and our children from unwarranted shortages. Oil, gas, coal are here in plentiful supply. Shale oil, productive land, sunshine, running water—all these resources are available to us.

So, I don't think we need look to the future with any feeling of despair, with any feeling of selfishness. We need not grasp for some advantage at the expense of our neighbor. There will be an adequately productive life and enjoyable life for us all. We are still the most blessed nation on Earth, with human freedom, strongest militarily, economically, politically, morally, ethically, and with productive land that will give us a much greater strategic advantage in the future than the OPEC nations collectively enjoy now from exportable oil.

Also, it's good for us to remember that even in energy we are especially blessed. The OPEC nations combined have about 6 percent of the world's known energy reserves. We have more than 20 percent in our country, and ours are much more diverse in nature.

Well, we do have a strong country. And as we look upon the day's news reports, what we remember is the argument and the debate and the temporary inconvenience or the transient disappointment. But what we sometimes tend to forget is the basic underlying strength of America—because of our natural resources, but primarily because of our people—where the individual person can have his or her talents tapped under a free enterprise system which enhances freedom and human initiative. Ours is a flexible nation. We can change rapidly to accommodate changing times.

So, we can approach the future with confidence, with unity, with commitment, with a knowledge that our country, through strength, will stay at peace. And we can provide leadership on a continuing basis for the rest of the world.

Now I'd like to take any questions that you might have for a few minutes. I'll start on the aisle.

Note: The President spoke at 3:19 p.m. in the East Room at the White House.

The question-and-answer session is not included in the transcript.

Jimmy Carter, White House Briefing for Civic and Community Leaders Remarks During a Briefing on Energy and Inflation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250069

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