534. Memorandum of Conversation1

The President said that Marlin Sandlin2 had raised the price of sulphur $5 a ton. Mr. Mann said this was the first he had heard of it. The President said that was the trouble, we were not on top of it. He said he thought Mr. Mann should call Mr. Sandlin and tell him that we certainly hope that he does not press this and remind him that if they keep the price up we will have to go to controls. The President said he thought this was awful. Mr. Mann said perhaps he should ask Mr. Sandlin to put a freeze on it and then come up here for a talk. The President said he thought this would be too late.

The President asked Mr. Mann if we had any leverage on Venezuela and Mr. Mann said we did not. The President said he thought it was foolish to raise the quota when we did. He said it seems almost [Page 1112] idiotic for us to take public funds to feed hungry children while we import extra oil from Venezuela. He said he thought that we ought to use coal and keep this oil out and put these people to work in the coal mines.

Mr. Mann said that would be great if it would work but went on to explain that only about 10% of the big users—mostly utilities— would be likely to convert to coal soon. Therefore, the conclusion was that coal could not replace the oil.

Mr. Mann said that the difficulty in his opinion really stems from the fact that the Venezuelans want the $1.25 that every refiner gets in this country as a result of his ticket taken away from the refiners and passed on to Venezuela.

Mr. Mann said that he would talk to Marlin Sandlin about the sulphur thing and would also let the President know after he had talked to the Venezuelan Minister of Mines Perez Guerrero who was coming to town. Mr. Mann told the President he hoped that Venezuela could administer this order in such a way as not to hurt us.

The President said if Mr. Mann was unable to reach him, he should give the info to Mr. Valenti.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, May 2, 1965–June 2, 1966. No classification marking. Drafted by Patricia A. Saunders. According to the President’s Daily Diary Johnson called Mann at 10:10 a.m. (Johnson Library)
  2. Marlin E. Sandlin, chairman of the Pan American Sulphur Company in Houston, Texas.
  3. Immediately following this conversation, Johnson called Udall to discuss the problem of Venezuelan oil. The President urged the Secretary to “find some way to really bring in a good load of this stuff that we can protect ourselves a little bit, and then say to Venezuela: ‘When we try to increase your quota, give you a little relief, why then you stick a price to us. Now, we’re not going to do that, we’re just not going to have it. We want a lower price with a bigger quantity rather than a higher price.’” Johnson suggested a barter deal, possibly in the Middle East, but was otherwise emphatic: “I want somebody that’s smarter than Venezuela.” Udall admitted “maybe our people haven’t looked hard enough at some move that would have the effect of shaking these Venezuelans.” (Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of telephone conversation between President Johnson and Udall, January 14, 1966, 10:15 a.m., Tape F66.01, Side B, PNO 5)