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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Oily Price Policies

WASHINGTON–If there is anything that can match the corruption of the Nixon Administration, it is the incompetence and captivity to the big oil companies that have characterized its mishandling of the energy problem.

Quite apart from its Congressionally documented refusal to stand up to big oil in past years and months, the White House is now embarking on disastrous short term energy policy for poor and middle income consumers. Only a tough citizenry and an aroused Congress can stop the staggering inflation and oil industry profit growth that will result from the actions of Mr. Nixon’s new energy czar, William E. Simon.

A former investment banker, Mr.Simon believes that prices of fuel should be allowed to rise and that the main burden of cutting back should be on consumers and not on industry and commerce which consume 70 percent of the nation’s energy. Consider the impact of this cruel policy. First, poorer Americans will have to pay the rich for the privilege of being their economic victims. Second, the rich oil industry will want to continue to limit supplies of oil and gas in anticipation of higher prices next month or the month after. This Simon cycle of disaster will only benefit the oil industry and will permit the continued coverup of sizable and readily exploitable oil and gas reserves in the Southwest which can relieve the present crunch.

The White House knows that domestic supplies of gas and oil can be expanded but avoids publicizing any information other than that which comes from the oil industry. Astoundingly enough, the government chooses neither to exercise its subpoena power to get the facts from the major oil companies nor to obtain independently the information about gas reserves, capped wells, the amount of secondary recovery available from partly exploited oil
wells (estimated at many billions of barrels) and the extent of stored but unmarketed fuel around the country.

On the demand side of the energy problem, the solutions can be found for the short term in preventing the collosal amount of waste by factories, office buildings and other industrial installations and equipment. Government experts are feeding data to Simon’s group about this waste which can be cut out quickly and simply by applying thrift. No loss of industrial production need result. Within days of strong government action, twenty percent of corporate energy consumption could be saved. With equitable allocation extending from what is produced to who consumes, the energy crisis for the short term would evaporate. Indeed, already thriftier consumer actions are resulting in lower electricity and fuel usage.

But too many industries now see that if they howl about the energy shortage, they can jump successfully on the bandwagon to get higher prices for themselves. Crying “shortage, shortage “is also a way to escape antitrust and pollution law enforcement and carve more privileges out of a panicked Congress. A stampede is underway to further concentrate economic power in the hands of fewer giant corporations at the expense of small businesses and the consumer and disease-prevention (environmental) movements.

Members of Congress will be spending s few weeks in their home district over the Holidays and New Year. They need to hear citizens and small businesses demand a stop to this destruction of their rights that is proceeding from a contrived energy crisis of limited supplies and almost unlimited waste. If a person overeats continuously, can he complain of a shortage of food?

Why should consumers be asked to breathe more pollution and cut back on their children’s school hours when neighboring plants and offices waste fuel and electricity like there’s no tomorrow?

Citizens should write to companies in their town or city and ask them what they are doing to reduce waste? They should write to their state utility commission and ask why large corporate users of electricity pay half as much or less than the rates paid by homeowners or why electric companies are allowed to promote non-essential uses of electric
power? They should support Senator Adlai Stevenson’s bill to establish a federal corporation to find and produce oil and gas from federal lands which belong to the people of this country.

Consumers need to form teams of neighbors who find and disclose waste of energy by factories, office buildings,school and other institutions. The Office of Energy Conservation in the Deaprtment of Interior can provide guides for such energy waste searches.

Write them. Act now or pay much more in dollars and disease later.