Does Jimmy Carter fear his own idealism? Why does he surround himself with top level aides, like James Schlesinger, his chief energy advisor, who has styled himself as a ‘left Republican”? The paradox of Mr. Carter is that he is more progressive than many of his top associates, if we are to believe what many lower level Carter aides are saying. Or if we are to believe those oft-repeated campaign statements that he still takes very seriously. Those statements now need to be recalled as standards for evaluating his heavily publicized Energy Plan. President Carter has an easy act to follow. But it would be unfair to his ‘horizons to compare his energy plan with the dismal, subsidy-ridden, monopoly pricing, and consumer gouging proposals of the Nixon-Ford Administration. The fairer comparison is between what Carter repeatedly said before November and what he is now proposing.
FIRST, THERE IS nothing in the detailed White House fact sheet on the energy proposals about extending long overdue rights and remedies for citizens to participate regularly in governmental energy policy-making. Nor was there any recognition of these participation rights in the legislation Carter sent to Congress earlier this year to form a Department of Energy. Yet members of Congress, such as Senator Edward Kennedy, have worked out the details to lower the economic and procedural barriers to citizen participation in government that now favor the wealthy corporate interests and their law firms.
This citizen omission is more reflective of Mr. Schlesinger’s career background stretching from the Office of Management and Budget to the Atomic Energy Commission, the CIA and the Department of Defense. The citizen gap, however, stands in marked contrast with Mr. Carter’s past reiterations of bringing the people into government.
Second, candidate Carter spoke knowledgeably about inadequate interfuel competition because of the growing conglomerate control over coal, uranium, geothermal and solar by the giant oil corporations. Ending the oil industry’s grip on these other energy sources is called horizontal divestiture. The Carter Energy Plan backs away from asking Congress for specific legislation to deal with the oil oligopoly, saying astonishingly that at present “it does not appear that new laws mandating either vertical or horizontal divestiture are required in order to promote or maintain competition in the energy industries.”
Hardly had the oil industry smiled in relief when a few, pages further in the fact sheet, President Carter is asking Congress to repeal a recent tax reform that ended a blatant tax loophole for oil millionaires instead of recommending the passage of several additional tax additional tax reforms of the energy industry.
APART FROM’ COAL, candidate Carter placed raising natural gas prices to levels exceeding five times that the gas industry was profitably receiving for new gas in 1973, as the way to reduce energy waste. As an engineer, he should have placed far greater emphasis on mandatory engineering and architectural standards for factory and office building energy conservation. Not only is this way more effective, but it is fairer to consumers and less inflationary than another round of sizable price increases.
In the long run, nothing in the Carter plan is more promising than delaying the breeder reactor program and the recycling of deadly plutonium. And nothing is less promising than the surprisingly modest program he offers for solar energy.
Americans are ready for a national solar energy mission, at least as grand as the far less important Apollo moon mission started in 1261. Solar energy is ready to take off now, as the President said, but it needs .more than a few tax credits to larch it into rapid volume production and engineering refinement. It reeds a first scale Presidential leadership to advance solar electric, the use of the wind and organic material. To unleash the small business and do-it-yourself initiatives in this country for solar energy, more urgency and more wisdom must be placed behind existing federal solar programs and tax money should no longer be drained away for nuclear boondoggles.
If this country spent $75 billion to get several men to the moon, why can’t it bring the sun to earth in useful energy systems and provide the U.S. and the world with the greatest boon of all!