21. Editorial Note

The problem of energy dependence confronted the Nixon administration in the aftermath of the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Earlier, President Richard Nixon, in an April 18 special message to Congress on energy policy, outlined steps the Federal government, private business, and the public should take in conserving energy and developing domestic resources. Nixon additionally placed resource consumption in an international context:

“I believe the energy challenge provides an important opportunity for nations to pursue vital objectives through peaceful cooperation. No [Page 97] chance should be lost to strengthen the structure of peace we are seeking to build in the world, and few issues provide us with as good an opportunity to demonstrate that there is more to be gained in pursuing our national interests through mutual cooperation than through destructive competition or dangerous confrontation.” (Public Papers: Nixon, 1973, page 317) Nixon supplemented this message with a June 29 statement outlining additional conservation measures. (Ibid., pages 623–630)

On October 18, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries imposed an oil embargo on the United States in light of U.S. support for Israel in the Middle East war. The embargo was later extended to Western Europe and Japan. The embargo underscored the extent of U.S. dependence on foreign fuels, as Nixon explained in a November 7 address to the nation: “Now, even before war broke out in the Middle East, these prospective shortages were the subject of intensive discussions among members of my Administration, leaders of the Congress, Governors, mayors, and other groups. From these discussions has emerged a broad agreement that we, as a nation, must now set upon a new course.” Nixon called this “new course” “Project Independence,” inspired by the technical successes of both the Manhattan Project and the Apollo space mission. As the President explained: “Today the challenge is to regain the strength that we had earlier in this century, the strength of self-sufficiency. Our ability to meet our own energy needs is directly limited to our continued ability to act decisively and independently at home and abroad in the service of peace, not only for America but for all nations in the world.” He predicted that the United States could achieve energy self-reliance by 1980. Accordingly, the President announced several austerity measures ranging from lowering highway speed limits to reducing the supply of heating oil for homes and businesses. (Ibid., pages 916–922)

In response to criticism that the country had not adequately prepared or planned for an energy crisis, Nixon noted during a November 17 news conference:

“I saw this thing coming. And you know why I saw it coming? Not because of the Mideast or the Alaska pipeline and the rest, but because this world with all of its problems is getting richer. Oh, I don’t mean there aren’t a lot of hungry people not only in America, too many here, but if you want to see hungry people, go to India or go to some of the countries in Latin America or upper Brazil, et cetera, et cetera. But generally, as the world gets richer, there is more air-conditioning, there is more need for power, and there is more need for energy. And that is why I sent the message 2 years ago and asked at that time that the Congress consider a program so that the United States should become self-sufficient in energy. All right, I followed that up this year in April [Page 98] before we even knew there might be or had any idea that—of the Mideast crisis, which made a serious problem, a serious crisis. I asked them for seven pieces of legislation to deal with energy. One has reached my desk, the Alaska pipeline. I signed it. The other six—I hope they act before they go home for Christmas.” (Ibid., page 960)