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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Comparing Carter’s Energy Promises…then and now

I’ve been reading through Jimmy Carter’s pre-presidential statements on energy recently. They offer quite a contrast to his present unabashed endorsement of the craven power of big business in the past months.

Here are some samples then and now:

June 26, 1975–“At this time this nation has no comprehensive national energy policy for the benefit of our citizens. What passes for our energy policy has been devised and put into effect by the oil companies and their representatives within and without the federal government agencies.”

Today–Carter’s words now can be applied to his own energy performance and his energy mismanager, James Schlesinger, who could substitute as the president of Exxon without missing a puff on his unweaned pipe.

June 19, 1976–“I oppose efforts to deregulate the price of old oil.”

Today–Carter has refused to continue price controls on the same old oil.

Jan. 25, 1976–“Nuclear power ought to be used as a source of energy only as a last resort, after strict oil conservation and full development of coal resources and solar devices and then only under rigid safety precautions.”

Today–Carter has demanded, after Three Mile Island, further expansion of nuclear power under faster licensing procedures and without urging Congress or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to adopt his oft-repeated rigid safety precautions such as building nuclear plants underground. Nukes are to be a “first resort” judging by how “last resort” his conservation and solar programs have become.

Jan. 23, 1976–“The most recent regulatory agency that has been prostituted is the Federal Energy Agency. It has become identical to the oil lobbyists; it’s hard to tell where one stops and the other starts.”

Today–The oil lobbyists still are disguised as officials in his Department of Energy and it is indeed still hard to tell the difference.

Carter accused the Nixon administration in 1974 of conspiring with the major oil companies to drive petroleum prices upward. Yet in the last year he has moved to end remaining price controls on natural gas, heating oil, gasoline and crude oil. The transfer of tens of billions of dollars from consumers to oil companies in the next five years dwarfs the indentured pro-oil policies of the Nixon-Ford administration.

It can be argued that the situation has changed and therefore merits a revision of Carter’s views. Unfortunately, the only change is that oil profits, oil supply manipulations, energy inflation, nuclear power hazards and other 1976 conditions have become worse. If anything Carter should be acting stronger now than he was talking in 1976.

Instead he has virtually turned pricing decisions on domestic oil and gas over to the Exxon et al cartel, which is using the OPEC price as the standard. No wonder the OPEC nations declined to take seriously U.S. objections to their increase when the U.S. president is encouraging similar pricing for new oil and gas in his own country. And in so doing he is risking the further alienation of many Democrats in the Congress.

Before Carter moved to decontrol oil and natural gas prices, the companies were able to obtain four times more for their new oil and five times more for their new natural gas than the respective prices in 1972. For any other industry such increases would have been deliriously avaricious. But not for big oil; it wanted to reach the OPEC ceiling and Carter has acquiesced.

What a price Americans will be paying for this latest corporatization of President Carter. In the meantime his White House aides are not bothering to back up Carter’s beleaguered regulators, whose automobile fuel efficiency and other proposed energy conservation standards are under heavy attack by industry.

The consumer rhetoric of candidate Jimmy Carter and the consumer symbolism of the early President Carter has now been revealed for what it is–a deceptive package full of corporate premiums.