NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Carter Defends Energy Policy

May 21, 2001

The recent debate over a national energy policy has led some to criticize the policies of the Carter administration in the late 1970s. President Jimmy Carter, who held the White House from 1977 to 1981, recently responded with his own take on the facts.

While we experienced energy crises in 1973 (sparked by the OPEC boycott) and 1979 (the result of the Iran-Iraq war), world supplies since have been stable, price fluctuations cyclical and reserves plentiful. This is partly due, Carter contends, to long-term energy policies his administration formulated in the 1970s. Those policies included increased exploration, decontrolling the price of natural gas and oil, development of alternative energy sources and regulations requiring increased efficiency.

  • In 1977, U.S. vehicles averaged 12 miles per gallon -- but now reach twice that much gas mileage, despite having fallen slightly during the past five years.
  • Since Carter signed his final energy bills in 1980, America's gross national product has increased 90 percent, while energy consumption has gone up only 26 percent.
  • The emphasis on coal and other sources of energy has limited petroleum consumption to an increase of only 12 percent, while gasoline prices have actually declined by 41 percent in real terms -- even including the temporary surge in the past two years.
  • At the end of 1980, every available drilling rig in the United States was at full capacity, and U.S. dependence on foreign imports was falling.

Regarding Alaskan drilling, Carter says the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act he signed in December 1980 approved 100 percent of the offshore areas for drilling and 95 percent of potentially productive oil and mineral areas for exploration or drilling -- exempting only the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Drilling there, Carter says, would be "an environmental atrocity."

Source: Jimmy Carter, "Energy Policy," Dallas Morning News, May 21, 2001.


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