237. Editorial Note

On November 7, 1973, President Richard Nixon addressed the nation on television and radio from the Oval Office of the White House. He unveiled Project Independence, a domestic response to the energy crisis that he compared to the Manhattan Project and the space program. He identified the goal of Project Independence as “the strength of self-sufficiency.” Stating that while the United States’ energy shortfalls were in part the result of Middle East developments, the shortage mostly reflected the United States’ own economic growth. As such, Nixon called for greater use of coal, reduced quantities of fuel for aircraft, reduced supply of heating oil for homes and offices, lowered interior temperatures, reductions in energy consumption throughout the Federal Government, increased licensing and construction of nuclear plants, and reduced highway speed limits to 50 mph. Additionally, he asked Congress to develop emergency energy legislation that would authorize a return to daylight savings time on a year round basis, the relaxation of environmental regulations, energy conservation measures, the adjustment of plane, ship, and carrier schedules, and approval and funding for increased exploration, development, and production from U.S. naval petroleum reserves.

President Nixon also chastised Congress for failure to pass any of his major energy initiatives. He wanted Congress to approve legislation that would authorize construction of the Alaska pipeline, promote the use of natural gas, set reasonable standards for mining coal, increase research and development, and approve an Energy Research and Development Administration. Nixon’s address is printed in full in Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, pages 916–922.

President Nixon followed this speech with a Special Message to Congress on November 8, urging that the executive and legislative branches work together to develop emergency energy legislation. Nixon wrote: “Largely because of the war, we must face up to the stark [Page 674] fact that we are heading toward the most acute shortages of energy since the Second World War.” He reiterated the actions announced in his address to the nation and asked for a bipartisan approach to energy legislation that would increase Presidential authority to allocate and ration energy supplies. Nixon asked for early action on pending legislative proposals on competitive pricing of natural gas, reasonable standards for strip mining, simplified procedures for approving electric energy facilities, the establishment of a Department of Energy and Natural Resources, and procedures for the construction and operation of deep water ports. He also asked that priority attention be paid to the creation of an Energy Research and Development Administration separate from the proposed Department of Energy and Natural Resources. Nixon concluded:

“Project Independence is absolutely critical to the maintenance of our ability to play our independent role in international affairs. In addition, we must recognize that a substantial part of our success in building a strong and vigorous economy in this century is attributable to the fact that we have always had access to almost unlimited amounts of cheap energy. … Thus, irrespective of the implications for our foreign policy and with the implicit understanding that our intentions are not remotely isolationist, the increasing costs of foreign energy further contribute to the necessity of our achieving self-sufficiency in energy.” (Ibid., pages 922–926)

On November 25, President Nixon again spoke to the nation from the Oval Office on energy issues. Stating that “the sudden cutoff of oil from the Middle East had turned the serious energy shortages we expected this winter into a major energy crisis,” Nixon reiterated the key points of his November 7 message and then turned to recent developments. Among these were the passage on November 16 of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act, which was adopted by the Senate only after a tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Gerald Ford, and passage of the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973. Nixon also stated that, on the advice of Colorado Governor John Love, head of the newly-established Energy Emergency Action Group, he was announcing greater emphasis on the production of home heating oil, the closure of all gas stations from 9 p.m. Saturday night to midnight Sunday, mandatory speed limits, a rescheduling of air traffic, restriction of outdoor ornamental lighting, and reduced interior temperatures to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The text of the President’s speech is ibid., pages 973–976.

On December 4, speaking from the White House Briefing Room, Nixon remarked that due to the Middle East oil embargo, it was necessary to strengthen the nation’s ability to make and implement an energy program. To do this he “decided to bring together in one agency the major energy resource management functions” of the government. [Page 675] Nixon personally assumed chairmanship of the Energy Emergency Action Group (EEAG), and appointed William E. Simon, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, to serve as the Executive Director. The EEAG was to have central authority for dealing with the energy crisis. Nixon asked Congress to create a Federal Energy Administration and, within the Executive Office of the President, a Federal Energy Office to carry out all energy-related functions. He established, by Executive Order 11748, the Federal Energy Office in anticipation of Congressional action, also to be headed by Simon. John Love and Charles DiBona had resigned their positions as Director and Deputy Director, respectively, of the Federal Energy Office on December 3. The President’s remarks are ibid., pages 990–991.