121. Editorial Note

On March 27, 1972, President Richard Nixon met with Secretary of the Interior Rogers C.B. Morton, the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs Alexander Haig, Secretary of Labor George Shultz, Under Secretary of the Interior John Whitaker, and the President’s Assistant for International Economic Affairs Peter Flanigan to discuss Secretary Morton’s suggestion that the Alaska pipeline be routed through Canada rather than Alaska. Morton argued that although an arrangement with Canada would require an international corporation, it would facilitate a future gas pipeline between the United States and Canada, and would be faster than the Alaskan route currently held up by environmentalists. Morton thought such an initiative would outmaneuver the environmentalists, be an immediate credit for Nixon, and compensate for the political problems associated with Vietnam. Nixon expressed concern over employment in Alaska, the three Alaskan electoral votes, and the existing investment in the Alaskan route by the oil industry. Shultz stated that the “hang up” with the Canadians, “was not so much the money, but the arrangement of the security of the oil. The oil, so to speak, came through Canada, and if some sort of Middle Eastern oil crisis of some sort, then would they siphon that oil off and hold it hostage against American oil on the East Coast of Canada.”

When Shultz brought up the fact that the Alaskan field was bigger than originally estimated and needed to be exploited, Nixon pointed out that “the Alaskans are much better off to find a good way to get the oil out of there and they take their money out of the oil. Right? They think this damn thing is a one shot deal.” He then told the officials, “Let’s forget the Alaskan politics.” Nixon suggested that the Canadians be given the “run around” during upcoming negotiations, stating, “I don’t care one damn about the Canadians. Or the fact that I want to screw this Trudeau when I’m up there.” He added: “We [Page 294] don’t want to do it with the Canadians. From a political settlement, if you weigh jobs in Alaska against what environmentalists in Los Angeles are going to think about the Alaskan pipeline, it’s a loss. It’s a bird in the hand against maybe four in the bush.” The meeting ended on how to present upcoming negotiations with the Canadians to the press. (Recording of conversation, March 27, 4:08–4:57 p.m.; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Tapes, Oval Office, Conversation No. 694–3) During his subsequent state visit to Canada, April 13–15, Nixon did not make a public announcement on Alaskan oil. He did address the Canadian Parliament and signed an agreement on the Great Lakes. Nixon’s address and the agreement are printed in Public Papers: Nixon, 1972, pages 537–543.

On May 11, Secretary Morton announced that he would grant permits for construction of a trans-Alaska oil pipeline to avoid dependence on oil from the Middle East. He ruled out a trans-Canadian route for environmental reasons, because of the potentially negative impact of such negotiations on U.S.-Canadian relations, and to avoid placing a large portion of the pipeline under the jurisdiction of another country. The pipeline would run from Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez. (John Maclean, “U.S. to Grant Permits for Alaska Oil Pipeline,” Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1972, page 8)

In a May 11 meeting, Under Secretary of State John Irwin told Canadian Ambassador Joseph D. R. M. Cadieux of this decision against the trans-Canadian route and the national interest considerations behind it. He also told Ambassador Cadieux “how important it would be for us if the Canadian Government could exercise as much restraint as possible in any comments it may make on the decision,” and of the usefulness of upcoming discussions on a common policy toward energy and energy security. (Letter from Irwin to Flanigan, May 12; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, PET 18–1 US, and letter from Katz to Armstrong, April 17; ibid., RG 429, Records of the Council on International Economic Policy 1971–77, Central File 1972–77, Box 8, Energy Talks with Canada) Flanigan expressed his concern that the Canadians refrain from playing a role in the environmentalist challenge to the Alaska pipeline decision. (Memorandum from Flanigan to Irwin, May 18; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, PET 18–1 US) Under Secretary Irwin reassured him that the Canadians had shown “some restraint,” even though some disaffection would be apparent. (Letter from Irwin to Flanigan, May 20; ibid.)