In his January 19, 1978 State of the Union address, President Carter proclaimed,
“We here in Washington must move away from crisis management, and we must establish clear goals for the future, immediate and the distant future, which will let us work together and not in conflict. Never again should we neglect a growing crisis like the shortage of energy, where further delay will only lead to more harsh and painful solutions.
Every day we spend more than $120 million for foreign oil. This slows our economic growth, it lowers the value of the dollar overseas, and it aggravates unemployment and inflation here at home.
Now we know what we must do, increase production. We must cut down on waste. And we must use more of those fuels which are plentiful and more permanent. We must be fair to people, and we must not disrupt our Nation's economy and our budget.
Now, that sounds simple. But I recognize the difficulties involved. I know that it is not easy for the Congress to act. But the fact remains that on the energy legislation, we have failed the American people. Almost 5 years after the oil embargo dramatized the problem for us all; we still do not have a national energy program.”
As inflation began to spiral higher, in his January 25, 1979 State of the Union address, President Carter called upon Congress
“to take other anti-inflation action--to expand our exports to protect American jobs threatened by unfair trade, to conserve energy, to increase production and to speed development of solar power, and to reassess our Nation's technological superiority. American workers who enlist in the fight against inflation deserve not just our gratitude, but they deserve the protection of the real wage insurance proposal that I have already made to the Congress.
To be successful, we must change our attitudes as well as our policies. We cannot afford to live beyond our means. We cannot afford to create programs that we can neither manage nor finance, or to waste our natural resources, and we cannot tolerate mismanagement and fraud. Above all, we must meet the challenges of inflation as a united people.”
We were also early on in what would become known as the 1979 energy crisis, where the world saw a significant decrease in oil production from the Middle East as Iran and Iraq became embroiled in a protracted war.
In his January 23, 1980 State of the Union address, President Carter said,
“The crises in Iran and Afghanistan have dramatized a very important lesson: Our excessive dependence on foreign oil is a clear and present danger to our Nation's security. The need has never been more urgent. At long last, we must have a clear, comprehensive energy policy for the United States.
As you well know, I have been working with the Congress in a concentrated and persistent way over the past 3 years to meet this need. We have made progress together. But Congress must act promptly now to complete final action on this vital energy legislation. Our Nation will then have a major conservation effort, important initiatives to develop solar power, realistic pricing based on the true value of oil, strong incentives for the production of coal and other fossil fuels in the United States, and our Nation's most massive peacetime investment in the development of synthetic fuels.
The American people are making progress in energy conservation. Last year we reduced overall petroleum consumption by 8 percent and gasoline consumption by 5 percent below what it was the year before. Now we must do more.”
He also announced his “import ceiling for 1980 of 8.2 million barrels a day” of crude oil, with no significant increase in domestic oil production, but adding,
“The single biggest factor in the inflation rate last year, the increase in the inflation rate last year, was from one cause: the skyrocketing prices of OPEC oil. We must take whatever actions are necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign oil--and at the same time reduce inflation.
As individuals and as families, few of us can produce energy by ourselves. But all of us can conserve energy--every one of us, every day of our lives. Tonight I call on you--in fact, all the people of America--to help our Nation. Conserve energy. Eliminate waste. Make 1980 indeed a year of energy conservation.
Of course, we must take other actions to strengthen our Nation's economy.
First, we will continue to reduce the deficit and then to balance the Federal budget.
Second, as we continue to work with business to hold down prices, we'll build also on the historic national accord with organized labor to restrain pay increases in a fair fight against inflation.
Third, we will continue our successful efforts to cut paperwork and to dismantle unnecessary Government regulation.
Fourth, we will continue our progress in providing jobs for America, concentrating on a major new program to provide training and work for our young people, especially minority youth. It has been said that "a mind is a terrible thing to waste." We will give our young people new hope for jobs and a better life in the 1980's.
And fifth, we must use the decade of the 1980's to attack the basic structural weaknesses and problems in our economy through measures to increase productivity, savings, and investment.”
Losing the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan, President Carter delivered the January 16, 1981 State of the Union address trying to triumphantly boast,
“Our economy is recovering from a recession. A national energy plan is in place and our dependence on foreign oil is decreasing. We have been at peace for four uninterrupted years.”
Those of us who were alive and paying attention then know better.
He also claimed of his Administration,
“the 1977 National Energy Plan marked an historic departure from the policies of previous Administrations. The plan stressed the importance of both energy production and conservation to achieving our ultimate national goal of relying primarily on secure sources of energy. The National Energy Plan made energy conservation a cornerstone of our national energy policy.
In 1978, I initiated the Administration's Solar Domestic Policy Review. This represented the first step towards widespread introduction of renewable energy sources into the Nation's economy. As a result of the Review, I issued the 1979 Solar Message to Congress, the first such message in the Nation's history. The Message outlined the Administration's solar program and established an ambitious national goal for the year 2000 of obtaining 20 percent of this Nation's energy from solar and renewable sources. The thrust of the federal solar program is to help industry develop solar energy sources by emphasizing basic research and development of solar technologies which are not currently economic, such as photovoltaic’s, which generate energy directly from the sun. At the same time, through tax incentives, education, and the Solar Energy and Energy Conservation Bank, the solar program seeks to encourage state and local governments, industry, and our citizens to expand their use of solar and renewable resource technologies currently available.
As a result of these policies and programs, the energy efficiency of the American economy has improved markedly and investments in renewable energy sources have grown significantly.”
President Carter also announced his “Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act,” blocking off billions of barrels of domestic crude oil that still sits in the ground, untapped today.
Part One, Part Three, Part Four