280. Editorial Note

On January 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon invited all major industrial consumer nations to participate in an energy conference, writing:

“Developments in the international energy situation have brought consumer and producer nations to an historic crossroad. The world’s nations face a fundamental choice that can profoundly affect the structure of international political and economic relations for the remainder of this century.

“Today, the energy situation threatens to unleash political and economic forces that could cause severe and irreparable damage to the prosperity and stability of the world. Two roads lie before us. We can go our own separate ways, with the prospect of progressive division, the erosion of vital interdependence, and increasing political and economic conflict; or we can work in concert, developing enlightened unity and cooperation, for the benefit of all mankind—producer and consumer countries alike.”

The United States, he stated, wanted the conference to be held at the foreign minister level to facilitate agreement “on an analysis of the situation and the work to be done,” to establish a task force drawn from the consuming countries to deal with exploding energy demands, and to develop a concerted consumer position to guarantee adequate supplies at fair and reasonable prices. Nixon called the proposed conference the first step in carrying out the Energy Action Group that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had detailed in his Pilgrim’s Speech (see Document 264). Nixon also proposed that all members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) be invited to a meeting between consumers and exporters, to take place within 90 days of the proposed energy conference. (Telegram 4153 to London, et al., January 9; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 321, Subject Files, Energy Crisis, Part 3) OPEC nations were so invited in telegram 4156, January 9. (Ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)

A later itemization of the issues with which the proposed conference would deal included: 1) consumer cooperation to increase supplies and regulate demand, 2) “policy cooperation among the main industrialized countries to deal with the economic effects,” 3) development of a “cooperative approach to consumer producer relations which will improve supply at reasonable prices and avoid confrontation,” 4) development of a means to “deal with the financial aspects of consumer-producer relations so as to provide incentives for producers while protecting the international economy against disequilibrating flows,” and 5) establishment of an international task force to prepare an action program that would include preparation for the meeting with producers, taking into account broad LDC interests and views. (Telegram 10351 to Jerusalem, January 17; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 321, Subject Files, Energy Crisis)

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Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs William Donaldson prepared “An Overview of the Forthcoming Energy Conference” on January 24 to address potential conference organization. Donaldson wrote that the two main results of the conference should be first, a communiqué on consumer cooperation in consumption, research, and economic and monetary mechanisms, and second, the establishment of a Task Force to continue the work of the conference. The attachments, which constituted the principal working papers, included Tab A, Impact of Project Independence on World Demand; Tab B, Energy Demand Restraint and Conservation; Tab C, Development of Alternative Sources; Tab D, International Cooperation in Energy Research and Development; Tab E, Economic Monetary and Investment Cooperation; Tab F, International Cooperation on Oil Prices and Production Levels; Tab G, Bilateral Petroleum Supply Arrangements; Tab H, A Strategy for Dealing with Producers; Tab I, Role of the International Oil Companies; Tab J, The LDC Question and Strategy; Tab K, France and the Washington Energy Crisis; and Tab L, OECD Assessment of the Economic Situation Created by the Oil Price and Supply Problem. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 407, Subject Files, Washington Energy Conference Washington DC February 1974, Preparation and Background Books prepared by Donaldson, Jan 1974)

A Central Intelligence Agency memorandum, entitled “The European Communities and the Energy Crisis,” January 11, concluded that many of the European states “are busily seeking bilateral deals with Arab producers and all of them are uncertain how much cooperation they want with each other or with the U.S. and Japan. The EC countries that have been invited by the President to a conference of consumers in Washington on February 11 are almost certain to attend, but prospects are not now bright that they will participate with a common point of view.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 321, Subject Files, Oil Crisis I)

Simultaneous with U.S. efforts to organize the energy conference, the French and Algerian Governments proposed alternative ways of handling the energy crisis. By January 31, President Houari Boumediene of Algeria had requested of Kurt Waldheim, Secretary General of the United Nations, that he convene an extraordinary session of the General Assembly to establish a “new equilibrium between developed and developing states and for non-aligned to assert greater control over their natural resources.” (Telegram 206 from Algiers, January 31; ibid., RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files) On January 18, the French proposed that a world energy conference be held under United Nations auspices. (Telegram 1652 from Paris, January 19; ibid.) French Foreign Minister Michel Jobert detailed the basics of an alternative energy proposal in a December 27 letter to Kissinger, transmitted in telegram 33095 from Paris, December 31, 1973. (Library of Congress, Manuscript [Page 797]Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 139, Geopolitical Files, France, Chron File, 4 Oct–31 Dec 1973) Waldheim subsequently told Kissinger that “neither the consumer nor producer nations are very interested now in the French proposal,” and that the French were “going slowly on the proposal, leaving it to the UN how next to proceed.” Kissinger stated that the United States believed that a UN energy conference now “would produce chaos.” (Telegram 17771 to Paris, January 28; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files)