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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Less Talk, More Action on the Energy Crisis

WASHINGTON–Now that the people are accurately telling members of Congress that the present energy shortage was orchestrated by the oil industry and condoned by the big businessmen running the government, what will Congress do about it?

Here is a suggested program which Senators and Representatives could support that would go a long way toward providing justice for consumers, workers and small businessmen being squeezed so mercilessly.

1. Oil prices must be rolled back. Domestic oil costs have not increased so much and this oil supplies 70 percent of the nation’s consumption. To permit energy chief, William Simon, to use foreign oil prices as a reason to allow do¬≠mestic oil prices to skyrocket amounts to unarmed robbery of billions of dollars from the public. An export tax would prevent a speculative outflow of oil.

2. Legislation is needed to require a reluctant federal government to obtain the full facts about the energy situation. This means obtaining and giving to the people the information about oil and gas reserves in this country (much higher than the industry claims), refinery output, storage levels, distribution policies, average production costs and profit rates of return from wellhead to retail. Presently, Americans should realize that the ex-industry men running federal energy policy do not even disclose the extent of oil and gas found on federal lands which belong to the people.

3. To insure that the giant multinational American oil companies do not desert this country and its consumers for higher profiteering abroad, the federal incorporation of these companies is necessary. Now, these companies are charteredin states like Delaware which will not and cannot make them accountable. Federal chartering was supported for all national companies by Presidents Roosevelt and Taft early in this century. It is still a good idea.

4. Strong antitrust action is a high priority to make the oil industry less concentrated and more competitive. Greater competition will break the monopolistic hold over the industry by the big seven oil companies and encourage smaller producers, refiners and retailers to get petroleum products to market cheaper and more consistently. The Federal Trade Commission and several state Attorneys General have such anti-monopoly cases under way. But Mr. Simon and his aides are strongly against such action.

5. A major portion of new oil and gas is situated on the federal lands–offshore and onshore. These natural resources belong to the people. As proposed by Senator Adlai Stevenson, a federal oil and gas company, to explore and produce such resources under strict environmental controls, would be highly beneficial. Such a company would assure the nation of adequate fuel supplies in emergencies whether they are real or contrived. It would help stimulate competition in the oil industry–as much as TVA did for the electric power industry. It would also provide independent gas stations and heating oil dis¬≠tributors with supplies when the big oil companies cut them off in order to replace them with their wholly owned outlets.

6. With a very small expenditure, Congress could provide technical assistance to state and local taxing districts to reassess the value of oil, gas and coal in the ground. Minerals companies have historically underestimated the amount and value of their minerals in order to keep their property taxes unconscionably low. The desperate needs of these poor localities have gone unmet because of this gross underpayment of property taxes by the companies that exploit their wealth.

There is now more compelling reasons than ever to reassess these lands and resources from West Virginia to Texas and recover hundreds of millions of dollars of uncollected property tax revenues.

Both directly and indirectly through the “multiplier effect,” this leap of fuel prices will jolt the economy into another inflationary spiral and an increasing inability to compete in world markets. How many more devaluations can a further weakened dollar absorb under such circumstances in the future? If such programs as noted above are not adopted, the created energy crisis of 1972-74 will become the trillion dollar economic trauma- over the next twenty years.