|11,000,000 gas burning
autos Detroit will produce and the 2,500,000 new homes constructed by the
All of this will be happening in America, but
we aren't the whole story. There are the undeveloped countries with rising
expectations, the exploding Common Market, the inventive and ambitious
Japanese, the Chinese looking for new trade relationships, and the development-minded
Russians -- all of whom will be looking for more gas, oil, and coal, and
some of it from the same markets we will seek to tap.
And when they compete with us it will be with
fire in their eyes because they will know:
* much of the world's precious oil
reserve is spent moving big American cars, sometimes three to a family,
currently accounting for 48% of the world's autos and 55% of all the gas
* old friends like the British and
Germans are getting along with a lot less energy, approximately half as
much per capita, and their standards-of-living aren't so bad;
* the lion's share of the additional
energy demanded by Americans will be for uses others view as outrageous
luxuries like air conditioning, for which 210 million Americans consume
as much energy as 800 million Chinese use for every purpose.
One additional piece of the forboding energy puzzle
is this: most of the world's remaining known petroleum reserves lie in
the nations of the Mideast whose current demeanor towards the United States
is less friendly than to many of our major energy competitors.
Most of us were asleep at the switch (at least
the OFF switch!!) when all this happened and we're in for some tough adjustments.
The Midwest oil shortage in a mild 1972 winter was not a one-shot accident,
but rather, in all probability, a minor preview of the years just ahead.
For unless I miss my guess, gasoline shortages and electrical blackouts
will be our regular companions for the rest of the 1970's. These events,
and the hard statistics I have cited, demand that we confront the "energy
crisis" and devise a conservative, responsible strategy to bring our energy
budget into balance in ways that are environmentally sound.
Everyone in Washington has opinions on, and solutions
for, the energy crisis. Two of them, the centerpieces of the President's
recent Energy Message, I find highly questionable, and, when tied together
as an exclusive package, totally unacceptable. They are non-solutions.
The first is to simply buy more oil from the Arabs.
It won't work. The United States has been the world's greatest trader and
producer of modern times. But in 1971 we sold fewer goods abroad than we
bought -- the first time that happened since 1892. One big reason: we
|paid out $7 billion for foreign oil,
a sum which almost exactly matched our trade deficit, itself a major culprit
of inflation at home. Analysts claim that our 1971-72 dollar devaluations
were in no small part due to the large dollar balances in the hands of
oil-producing countries and were used to make a "run" on U.S. currency
in international markets.
If we accept unbridled consumer demand for energy
as a fact of life, we can count on buying $14 billion of Mideast oil by
1975 and some $30 billion a year by 1980. What will these kinds
of purchases do to the dollar and where will we find the American exports
to pay for them?
But if the economic implications of such a dependency
are worrisome, the political considerations are downright frightening.
How would it affect our commitment to Israel? Even if a political
were found to current Mideast divisions, could we really plan on a constant
supply of energy transfusions from countries whose policies can be reversed
on a day's notice by a coup-de-etat or by a shiek who turns unfriendly?
A second non-solution is the all-out dig-dam-drill
approach. As blackouts and gas station shortages begin to hit more and
more, we'll hear advice whose effect, though tucked into nice euphemisms,
will be this: forget all environmental and health considerations and get
on with strip mining for coal, both on private and scenic public lands
of the West. After all, coal is cheap and accessible. We'll also be advised
to get more gas and oil by drilling from the fishing waters of Maine to
the beaches of North Carolina and off the coast of California. And before
this chorus has ended, there will be persuasive arguments for building
hydroelectric dams on every last river site, including two in the Grand
For a few years we'll have no choice but to buy
some Mideast oil. And there is some digging and drilling
we should and can do without environmental damage. But neither solution
is tolerable in the long run. For sooner or later (20-60 years depending
on how pessimistic you are) mankind is out of gas and oil. In a few centuries
or less, you can scratch coal.
The harsh truth is that eventually, if civilization
is to remain on this planet, we need permanent, renewable, clean, large-scale
energy sources that, like the windmill or the old waterwheel, consume
nothing and pollute nothing. We have some cushions that will let us
overdraw our energy bank account for a time, but we should aim right now
at a balanced energy budget before the year 2000.
The question is how do we do it? Part of the answer
lies in the experience of the 1960's when America spent $25 billion for
a crash program that harnessed the brains and enthusiasm of the scientific