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Environmental Text Response

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Environmental Text Response

October 4th, 2012

Proposed Energy Policy Speech of 1977

On April 18th 1977, the United States President Jimmy Carter delivered a Proposed Energy Policy Speech to the American people. Throughout his public announcement, President Carter stresses the importance of establishing a long term energy policy that focuses on the conservation of the country's natural resources and he calls for a new energy department to be established (United States Department of Energy or DOE). Carter even addresses various ideas to improve the American economy in order to ultimately reduce the size of government.

Right from the onset of his speech, Jimmy Carter underscores that there are two central problems we should be facing as a nation. According to his address, the first and foremost problem we should be facing is the prevention of war and the second problem we should be combating is our energy crisis. He argues that although we are not yet overwhelmed (in 1977) with the energy crisis, he says we will become overwhelmed during the 1980's and beyond if we do not act accordingly. In his mind, we cannot be "selfish or timid" when approaching this issue. Rather, we must balance our demand with our rapidly shrinking resources.

It's important to note that this speech came about as a response to the 1973 oil crisis which called attention to the need to preserve energy and change our policy. On August 4, 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed into law The Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977 which created the Department of Energy. In this new agency, responsibilities were carried out by the Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Federal Power Commission, and programs of various other agencies that were dedicated to maintain our various energy policies.

After Jimmy Carter lays out his introduction, he communicates to the American nation that he will later propose his ideas to congress and although they will be unpopular and present numerous inconveniences and sacrifices, Carter deems his policy to be necessary. In order to better educate and attempt to persuade his audience who -during these times- were much more skeptical to our impact on the environment than they are now, Carter decided to provide a brief historical background of our energy consumption habits. He accurately mentions our transition from wood, to coal to oil and natural gasses which is what we obviously still use to this day.

According to his speech, Jimmy Carter understandably didn't favor the fact that "75% of our energy" derived from oil and natural gases in 1977 and he didn't like that production was dropping 6% each year. During this time period we were becoming more vulnerable as our increase in demand for imported oil was growing and growing.

Carter's answer was to these concerns was, in part, to transition back to coal and solar power since, in his mind, we were running out of oil too fast to keep up with demand. He also notes that we are extremely wasteful as a society since we burn twice as much energy per-person than those living in Germany, Sweden and other European countries do. If this continues, Carter notes that we will need to import more and more oil which will result in a large drop in jobs and will actually "endanger our freedom as a sovereign nation." He tells Americans that if we do not act soon importing oil will prove to be too difficult and intense competition will destroy not only our nation but other nations as well.

The next section of his speech, Carter concerns himself with the task of outlining the ten basic principles that guided the construction of his Energy Policy. The first principle he mentioned required government to take responsibility and actually acknowledge the policy by allowing people to make sacrifices. The second principle argued that our nation needed to foster healthy economic growth in order to save energy and create more jobs. The third principle mandated that we as a country must strive to protect the environment and it declared that wasteful use of energy and our environment is bad. The forth principle stated that we need to reduce vulnerability to embargos by reducing our demand for oil and replacing it with the use of coal and other petroleum reserves. The fifth principle ensured that the policy would regard each person and interest group with the same degree of fairness and sense of overall justice. The sixth principle was characterized as the cornerstone to his policy and essentially stated that the American people must primarily reduce demands on energy through conservation. The seventh principle demanded that "prices should reflect the true replacement cost of energy" so that we can't make oil artificially cheap thereby selling more oil than we can keep up with. The eighth principle asked that governmental policies should be both predictable and certain. That is, they should be planned and transparent to the American people so that individuals can properly understand what is happening to them and their country. The ninth principle dictates that we should conserve the fuels that are in the greatest danger of becoming depleted and instead use the ones that are the most plentiful. According to him, the answer to this is to shift to coal consumption while protecting the environment and securing stricter safety standards to nuclear energy policies. The tenth and final principle Jimmy Carter talks about is that we must start to develop new and "unconventional means" of energy production through creativity and technological advancements.

While those ten principles ultimately guided the construction of his energy policy, Jimmy Carter follows these principles in his speech by describing six central goals he has set for the nation by the year 1985. Although admirable, these goals were deeply ambitious in my opinion and included reducing annual growth rates of energy demand, reducing gas consumption, cutting imported oil in half, increasing coal production to about two thirds, better insolating for American homes and other buildings and he also aimed

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