Witness: Former President Jimmy Carter
Chaired By: Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
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SEN. KERRY: This hearing will come to order. And the record will reflect that that is the first time before a hearing that any witness that I can remember has been applauded, Mr. President. (Laughter.)
We are obviously very, very pleased to have with us today President Jimmy Carter.
"Why have we not been able to get together as a nation and resolve our serious energy problem?" These were the words of President Jimmy Carter in 1979. And regrettably, despite the strong efforts of President Carter and others, here we are in 2009, still struggling to meet this same challenge today.
It's a rare honor to welcome a former president of the United States to testify before this committee. And I'm very, very pleased to share this honor with my colleague, Senator Lugar, who will be here momentarily, and with other colleagues. Senator Lugar was sworn in three weeks before the Carter administration began, and he's been a leading voice on the issue of energy security ever since, and he is now the senior Republican in the United States Senate.
This is the first in a series of hearings that will build on the important work that was done by Senator Lugar and then-Senator Biden on the issue of energy security over the last several Congresses. From securing our natural gas pipelines globally to creating clean development pathways, this is obviously not just an important issue, but it's a broad issue that has implications well beyond just energy. It cuts across disciplines and across regions.
We hope to use these hearings to gain insight and perspective on the current state of our challenge, and particularly to help understand this in the context of the global economy, global security threats, and the national security needs of our nation.
The down side of our continued dependence on oil is compelling. It is well-known. And the down side is only growing. Economically, it results in a massive continuous transfer of American wealth to oil- exporting nations, and it leaves us vulnerable to price and supply shocks.
But the true cost of our addiction extends far beyond what we pay at the pump. Its revenues empower and sustain despots and dictators, and it obliges our military to defend our energy supply in volatile regions of the world at very great expense.
These were some of the problems that then-President Carter saw, understood and defined back in the latter part of the 1970s. They remain problems today. And to this long list of problems, we now add two very urgent and relatively new threats -- global terror, funded indirectly by our expenditures on oil, and global climate change, driven by the burning of fossil fuels.
To make matters worse, billions of new drivers on the roads and consumers across the developing world, as India and China's population and other populations move to automobiles, as lots of other folks did, all of that will ensure that the supplies of existing energy sources will grow even tighter.
All the trends are pointing in that wrong direction. According to the International Energy Agency, global energy demand is expected to increase approximately 45 percent between 2006 and 2030, fueled largely by growth in the developing world.
So we're here today to discuss both the geostrategic challenges posed by our current energy supply and the need to find new and more secure sources of energy in the future. From development to diplomacy to security, no part of our foreign policy is untouched by this issue. Region by region, our energy security challenge is varied and enormous.
In Europe, for example, the potential for monopolistic Russian control over energy supplies is a source of profound concern for our allies, with serious implications for the daily lives of their citizens. Too often the presence of oil multiplies threats, exacerbates conflicts, stifles democracy and development, and blocks accountability.
In Nigeria, massive oil revenues have fueled corruption and conflict. In Venezuela, President Chavez has used oil subsidies to great effect to buy influence with neighbors. Sudan uses its energy supply to buy impunity from the global community for abuses. Iran uses petro dollars to fund Hamas and Hezbollah and to insulate its nuclear activities from international pressure.
We know that, at least in the past, oil money sent to Saudi Arabia has, some of it, eventually found its way into the hands of jihadists. And, of course, oil remains a major bone of contention and a driver of violence in Kirkuk and elsewhere among Iraq's religious and ethnic groups.
And alongside these security concerns, we must also recognize that access to energy is fundamental to economic development. Billions of people who lack access to fuel and electricity will not only be denied the benefits of economic development; their energy poverty leaves them vulnerable to greater political instability and more likely to take advantage of dirtier local fuel sources that then damage the local environment and threaten the global climate.
Taken together, these challenges dramatically underscore a simple truth: Scarce energy supplies represent a major source for instability in the 21st century. That is why, even though the price of a barrel of oil is today $90 below its record high from last summer, we cannot afford to repeat the failures of the past.
Ever since President Nixon set an original goal of energy independence by 1980, price spikes and moments of crisis have inspired grand plans and Manhattan Projects for energy independence, but the political will to take decisive action has dissipated as each crisis has passed. That is how steps forward have been reversed and efforts have stood still even as the problem has gotten worse.
In 1981, our car and light truck fleet had a fuel efficiency rate of 20.5 miles per gallon. Today that number is essentially the same. The only difference: Back then we imported about a third of our oil. Today we import 70 percent.
The good news is that we are finally moving beyond the old paradigm in which crisis gives way to complacency. In recent years, Congress and the administration have made some progress, some real progress. In 2007, I was proud to be part of the effort that raised fleet-wide fuel efficiency standards for the first time since the Carter administration. Then in February we passed an economic recovery package which was America's largest single investment in clean energy that we have ever made.
While our progress has been impressive, the fact is -- and President Carter will talk about this today -- the lion's share of the hard work still lies in front of us. I'm hopeful that these hearings on energy security will illuminate the way forward, both in securing our existing resources and encouraging the growth of secure, affordable and sustainable alternatives.
It's a particular pleasure to have President Carter here, because President Carter had the courage, as president of the United States, to tell the truth to Americans about energy and about these choices. And he actually set America on the right path in the 1970s. He created what then was the first major effort for research and development into energy future with the creation of the Energy Laboratory out in Colorado, and tenured professors left their positions to go out there and go to work for America's future.
Regrettably, the ensuing years saw those efforts unfunded, stripped away, and we saw America's lead in alternative and renewable energy technologies that we had developed in our universities and laboratories transferred to Japan and Germany and other places where they developed them.
In the loss of that technology, we lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and part of America's energy future. President Carter saw that, knew and understood that future. He dealt with these choices every day in the Oval Office and he exerted genuine leadership. He's been a student of these issues and a powerful advocate for change in the decades since, and we're very grateful that he's taken time today to share insights with us about this important challenge that the country faces.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming President Carter, and likewise your very thoughtful comments about his leadership in the Oval Office. We look forward to his perspectives today. They will be helpful to all of us.
And I welcome also our second panel, General Chuck Wald, former deputy commander of European Command, and Mr. Fred Smith, chief executive officer of FedEx. In addition to their own substantial expertise on energy policy, General Wald and Mr. Smith are leaders in the coalition called Securing America's Future Energy, which advocates for energy policy reform that's broad in scope and aggressive in action.
Cognizant despite past campaigns for energy independence and steady improvement in energy intensity per dollar of GDP, we are more dependent on oil imports today than we were during the oil shocks of the 1970s. And yet I believe that the American public and elected officials are becoming much more aware of the severe problems associated with oil dependence and are more willing to take aggressive action. Similarly Americans are recognizing and we have the capacity to change how we generate electricity and how we heat and cool our buildings.
This past weekend I was thrilled to be part of a participation in the groundbreaking for a unique and ambitious geothermal energy project at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Through this project the biggest of its type in the country, the entire campus more than 40 buildings will be heated and cooled using geothermal energy. The project will allow the university to retire its coal fired boilers and will save more than $2 million a year in doing so. The Ball State geothermal project provides a practical real world example of how large scale alternative energy projects are now economically viable today. I am confident that when other universities, businesses, institutions see what's happening in Muncie with American built equipment, they'll be asking how can they put that technology to work for themselves.
And even as I was encouraged by the geothermal project, another development last week pushed the United States further from energy independence. Proposed regulations offered by the Environmental Protection Agency could halt expansions of ethanol produced from corn starch by imposing prejudential greenhouse gas standards on ethanol qualifying under the renewable fuels mandate. By attempting to regulate ethanol through incomplete modeling of so-called life cycled greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA seeks to blame corn farmers for shifting land use patterns around the world, accurately measuring such a complex phenomenon would also require accounting for varying trade barriers, -- (inaudible) -- regime, the decline of foreign assistance targeted rural development and many other factors.
In 2006 I joined with President Obama and Senator Harkin to propose an expansive increase into renewable fuels mandate, and the reason for doing so was clear, foreign oil dependency is a security threat to our nation. Each of us working in this area recognizes the ultimate goal is for the United States to produce much larger quantities of advanced biofuels made from any plant materials. Important advances have been made in cellulosed technology and more will be achieved. But the development of this technology will be much slower if we stifle existing corn based ethanol production. The physical and financial infrastructure used to deploy today's ethanol are essential building blocks of the infrastructure necessary to deploy advanced biofuels on a mass scale.
And moreover reversing clear government policy that for most corn ethanol may undermine the confidence of potential investors in advanced biofuels and perhaps other energy technologies. Our nation cannot afford to turn its back on the primary oil substitute available today and production of 9.2 billion gallons of ethanol erase the needs last year for 325 million barrels of crude oil. In effect, ethanol production allowed the U.S. to be oil import free for an entire month last year. In this case, an EPA regulation carrying the force of law threatens to further entrench U.S. oil dependence.
The president and Congress must make specific commitments to an array of technologies and ensure that our rhetoric is masked by our policies and our regulations. For example in the summer of 2005, Congress passed a loan guarantee program aimed at speeding commercialization of emerging energy technologies, including an underlying cellulosic ethanol, yet due to bureaucratic inertia and disagreements over implementation, no loan guarantees were granted for more than three and a half years, and only one has been granted to date. The United States needs a broad range of technology development, domestic energy production, and efficiency gains to make substantial progress toward energy independence.
Having worked with President Obama and Vice President Biden on these issues during their tenure in the Senate, I believe they understand that urgency. Energy security is a national security priority, must be given constant attention and support at all levels of government. I thank the Chairman for calling this hearing, I look forward to our distinguished witnesses.
SEN. KERRY : Thank you very much, Senator Lugar.
Mr. President, again, -- (inaudible) -- my colleagues I had a chance to visit with the president briefly before we came here and I will tell you that the work of the Carter Center globally is really quite extraordinary and this Committee would do well to have some of our staff probably go down there sometime Mr. President and spend some time understanding how they have been able to get services and efforts from ground up in a lot of countries which do enormous good for considerably less dollars than some of the USAID and other efforts and we need to look hard at how that happens.
Mr. President, thank you very, very much for being here with us today and we look forward to your testimony, sir.
I think if you push the button on your mic, the little light will go on and pull it toward -- thank you.
PRES. CARTER: Thank you again Mr. Chair.
Well I've already learned a lot from the two opening statements and I'm very pleased to be here to accept President Kerry's -- I mean Senator Kerry's -- excuse me that was a slip of the tongue --
-- Senator Kerry's request to relate my personal experiences as president meeting the multiple challenges of a comprehensive energy policy and interrelated strategic issues. They've changed very little during the last three decades.
As a matter of fact, 14 years ago, I responded to a similar invitation from Senator Sam Nunn to report on one of the peace missions I had made in 1994 for North Korea, Haiti and Bosnia. At that time, I was the fifth president ever to testify before a Senate Committee and the first one since Harry Truman.
Well long before my inauguration as president I was vividly aware of the interrelationship between energy and foreign policy. U.S. oil prices had quadrupled in 1973, when Mr. Nixon was president and I was governor with our citizens subjected to severe oil shortages and long gas lines brought about by a boycott of Arab OPEC countries. Even more embarrassing to a proud and sovereign nation was the secondary boycott that I inherited in 1977 against American corporations doing business with Israel.
We overcame both challenges, but these were vivid demonstrations of the vulnerability that comes with excessive dependence on foreign oil. At that time, we were importing 50 percent of consumed oil, almost nine million barrels per day. And we were the only industrialized that did not have a comprehensive energy policy. Senators Dodd and Lugar will remember those days. It was clear that we were subjected to deliberately imposed economic distress and even political blackmail and a few weeks after I become president, I elevated this issue to my top domestic priority. In an address to the nation, I said, and I quote myself, "Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the president and the Congress to govern this nation. This difficult effort will be the moral equivalent of war except it will reuniting our efforts to build and not to destroy".
First, let me review our work with the U.S. Congress which will demonstrate obvious parallels for the challenges that lie ahead, and may be informative to this group as the Foreign Relations Committee and also to those of you who serve on other committees. Our efforts to conserve energy and to develop our own supplies of oil, natural gas, coal, and renewable sources were intertwined domestically with protecting the environment, equalizing supplies to different regions of the country, and balancing the growing struggle and animosity between consumers and producers. Oil prices then were controlled at very low artificial levels through an almost incomprehensible formula based on the place and time of the discovery of a particular oil coming from a well. And the price of natural gas was tightly controlled, but only if it crossed the state line. Scarce supplies naturally went were prices were the highest, depriving some regions of needed fuel like New England for instance.
Energy policy was set by more than 50 different federal agencies. And I was determined to consolidate them into a new department. In April of 1977 after just 90 days in office, we introduced a cohesive and comprehensive energy proposal with 113 individual components. We were shocked to learn that it was to be considered by 17 committees and subcommittees in the House and would have to be divided to five separate bills in the Senate. Speaker Tip O'Neal was able to create a dominant in House committee under Chairman Lud Ashley but the Senate remained divided under two strong willed, powerful, and competitive men, Scoop Jackson and Russell Long. In July we pumped the first light crude oil into our strategic petroleum reserve in Louisiana, historical note. The initial stage in building up to my target of 115 days of imports.
We reached that goal in 1985. Less than a month after this, I signed the new Energy Department into law with James Schlesinger as secretary, and the House approved very quickly my omnibus proposal. In the Senate, however, the oil and automobile industries prevailed in Senator Long's committee, which produced unacceptable bills dealing with price controls on the use of coal.
There was strong bipartisan support throughout the Congress but many liberals then preferred no legislation to the higher prices that were in prospect. Three other Senate bills encompassed my basic proposals on conservation, coal conversion, and electricity rates. They were under Senator Jackson's control. I insisted, however, on -- (inaudible) -- of a comprehensive or omnibus bill, crucial then and now to hold this together to prevent fragmentation and control by oil company lobbyists who may be still very powerful, and this year it is in an impasse, the first year.
As is now the case, enormous sums of money were involved and the life of every single American was being touched. The House (Senate ?) Conference Committee was exactly divided -- precisely divided -- and still made it, and I could only go directly to the American people. I made three prime time TV speeches in addition to addressing a joint session of Congress on this single issue -- energy.
Also, we brought (a stream ?) of interest groups into the White House several times a week for direct briefings. The -- (inaudible) -- finally reached agreement but under pressure many of the conference committee members refused to sign their own report, and both Senator Long and Jackson threatened filibusters on natural gas and an oil windfall profits tax. In the meantime I was president, I was negotiating to normalize diplomatic relations with China. I was bringing Israel and Egypt together in a peace agreement.
I was sparring with the Soviets on a strategic arms limitation treaty. I was allocating with Congress vast areas of land in Alaska and trying to induce 67 members of a reluctant Senate to ratify the Panama Canal treaties. Our closest allies were vocally critical of our profligate waste of energy, and OPEC members were exacerbating our problems every time they had a chance. Finally clearing the conference committee and a last-minute filibuster in the Senate, the omnibus bill returned to the House for a final vote just before the 1978 elections, and following an enormous White House campaign I think I called every single member of the House. It passed 207 to 206.
The legislation put heavy penalties on gas-guzzling automobiles; forced electric utility companies to encourage reduced consumption; mandated insulated buildings and efficient electric motors in heavy appliances; promoted gasohol -- as it was known then -- production and carpooling; decontrolled natural gas prices at a rate of 10 percent per year; promoted solar, wind, geothermal, and water power; permitted the feeding of locally-generated electricity even from small dams into utility grids; and regulated strip mining and leasing of offshore drilling sites. We were also able to improve efficiency by deregulating our -- (inaudible) -- air, rail, and trucking transportation systems.
What remained was decontrolling oil prices and the imposition of a windfall profits tax. This was a complex and extremely important issue with hundreds of billions of dollars involved. The big question was how much of the profits would go to the oil companies and how much would be used for public benefit. By this time, the Iranian Revolution and the impending Iran-Iraq war caused oil prices to skyrocket from $15 a barrel to $40 a barrel in just a few months. That's $107 a barrel in today's prices. As did the prospect of deregulated price, so every time the oil price went up the oil companies could (see ?) that many more profits in their pocket.
We reached a compromise in the spring of 1980 with a variable tax rate of 30 percent to 70 percent on the oil companies' profits, the proceeds to go into the general Treasury to be allocated by the Congress in each year's budget. The tax was scheduled to expire after 13 years or when $227 billion had been collected. (Our strong ?) actions regarding conservation and alternative energy sources resulted in a reduction of net oil imports by 50 percent, from 8.6 to 4.3 million barrels per day by 1982, just 28 percent of consumption now.
Increased efficiency -- (inaudible) -- during the next 20 years our gross national product increased four times as much as energy consumption increased. This shows what can be done, but unfortunately, there has been a long period of energy complacency and our daily imports are now almost 13 million barrels a day. For instance, I (dedicated ?) solar collectors on the White House roof in 1979 and set a reasonable national goal 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020. But the 32 panels were soon removed almost instantaneously after my successor moved into the White House with assurances to the American people that such drastic action would no longer be necessary. The U.S. now uses 2.5 times more oil than China and 7.5 times more than -- than India, or on a per capita consumption basis, 12 times China's and 28 times India's.
Although (how ?) this nation can afford these daily purchases -- (inaudible) -- that in general terms we are constrained not to alienate our major oil suppliers which puts a restraint on our nation's foreign policy, and some of those countries are publicly antagonistic. They are known to harbor terrorist organizations or to obstruct America's strategic interest. Where we are inclined to use restrictive incentives, as on Iran, we find other oil consumers reluctant to endanger their supplies. On the other hand, the blatant interruption of Russia's natural gas supply (for ?) Ukraine has sent a warning signal towards European customers that they can be blackmailed in the future.
Excessive oil purchases are the solid foundation of our net trade deficit, which creates a disturbing dependence on foreign nations that finance our debt. We still face criticism from some of our own allies who are far ahead of us in energy efficiency and commitments to environmental equality, and we must also remember that the poorest people also pay the higher oil prices that result from our enormous per capita consumption.
A major new problem was discovered first while I was president when science advisor Dr. Frank Press informed me of evidence by scientists that we were told that the Earth was slowly warming and that human activity was at least partially responsible. Now, my wife Rosalynn and I have personally observed the shrinking of glaciers, the melting of Arctic ice, the inundation of villages along Alaska's shorelines, and the last time Rosalynn and I went to Anchorage, Alaska, the top newspaper headlines said, quote, "Polar Bears to be Extinct in 25 Years."
There's no doubt that rejecting the Kyoto Accords incurred severe condemnation to our country, perhaps more condemnation among our allies and friends than any other thing we've ever done, and damaged our overall status as a world leader. To address this challenge forthrightly should not create fear among us. A source of income for our government that parallels the windfall profit tax -- profits tax back in 1980 is some means of (optioning ?) carbon credits, and it is likely that many more jobs will be created than lost with new technologies derived from a comprehensive energy plan if it's ever forthcoming.
My wife and I have visited more than 125 nations since leaving the White House, and the Carter Center now has programs in about 70 of them. We know that the people in abject poverty are suffering most from expensive and uncertain energy supplies, much more than we're suffering, and are destined for much greater despair with rising sea levels, increased pollution, and desertification.
It's typical for us to defend ourselves against accusations that our waste of energy contributes to their plight. Everywhere we see the intense competition by China for present and future oil supplies and other commodities. We just came from four countries in South America last week and saw this, and their financial aid is going to other key governments including Argentina and Venezuela and Ecuador, and others. I just mentioned the three we visited recently. And that financial aid is very helpful and appreciated.
Recently, I found the Chinese to be very proud of their more efficient, less polluting coal power plants. They are building these about one each month, in addition to some non-efficient plants, while we delay our first full-scale model. You might want to read an article that was in The New York Times yesterday that describes this disparity between the Chinese coal-building plants -- coal and -- coal-burning plants and ours. We also lag far behind many other nations in the production and use of windmills, solar power, nuclear energy, and the efficiency of energy consumption.
Last week, (we found especially confident, almost exuberant ?) to business and political leaders in Brazil, for instance. Their banking and financial system is relatively stable. Worldwide popularity and influence is very high. Enormous new oil deposits have been discovered off their coasts. And Brazil is not a world leader. It produces cellulose, wood products, cotton, orange juice, soybeans, corn, sugar cane, and are poised to export products in technology from their remarkable biofuels industry using nonfood sources.
Collectively, nothing could be more important than this question of energy and strategic interest.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. We greatly appreciate those insights on the journey traveled and also on the challenge ahead.
If you'd be kind enough, I think we'd probably like to be able to ask a few questions, if we can.
Mr. President, in the context of today's energy challenge, which is not all that dissimilar, what would your advice be to the Congress as it grapples with the global climate change and energy bills that we're about to undertake? Is there an order of priorities, in your judgment? Is there a way we should approach this, based on the lessons that you've learned and have observed over these years?
PRESIDENT CARTER: Senator, I think there'd be two basic elements of it. One is an omnibus proposal that could be addressed collectively by the Congress. I don't know how many different committees will be involved now, but they need to be brought together in a common approach to the complex problem, because no single element of it can be separated from the others.
And I think it would also minimize the adverse influence of special interest groups who don't want to see the present circumstances change or a new policy put into effect to deal with either energy or to deal with the environment. So that's an important thing.
And the other advantage in having an omnibus bill is it gives the president and other spokespersons for our government, including all of you, an opportunity to address this so the American people can understand it. You know already it's extremely complex. And so I think the most important thing is to see a single proposal come forward combining energy and environment, as it was the case in 1977 to 1980, so that it can be addressed comprehensively.
This is not an easy thing, because now, with inflation, I guess several trillion dollars are involved; back in those days, hundreds of billions of dollars. And the interest groups are extremely powerful.
I had the biggest problem at the time with consumer groups, who didn't want to see the price of oil and natural gas deregulated. And it was only by passing the windfall profits tax that we could induce some of them to support the legislation, because they saw that the money would be used for helping poor families pay high prices on natural gas for heating their homes and for alternative energy sources, things of that kind.
SEN. KERRY: Mr. President, I know you don't have eyes in the back of your head, but we've been joined by your wife, Rosalynn Carter. We're delighted that she is here with us today.
Thank you so much.
Right in back of you, sir.
PRESIDENT CARTER: I understand, yeah.
SEN. KERRY: And your daughter Amy. We're delighted to welcome --
PRESIDENT CARTER: I felt an aura of authority enter the room a few minutes ago. (Laughter.)
SEN. KERRY: You did?
PRESIDENT CARTER: I didn't know (where ?) it came from.
SEN. KERRY: Well, I know that they're fresh from a luncheon with our first lady, our current first lady, and we're delighted to welcome them here.
PRESIDENT CARTER: Amy was the same age, right between the two Obama children, when she moved into the White House as a seven-year- old.
SEN. KERRY: Well, I'm sure they shared stories. I hope they did.
PRESIDENT CARTER: (Laughs.)
SEN. KERRY: Mr. President, is there any doubt in your mind about the urgency of the United States leading on the issue of climate change, particularly with respect to the Copenhagen negotiations that will occur in December?
PRESIDENT CARTER: No, there's no doubt in my mind about that. In fact, all the way through at least the George H.W. Bush administration, we were in the forefront of evolving the Kyoto Accords. In fact, George Bush Sr. was one of the main spokespersons in Rio de Janeiro when the follow-up meeting was held. And it was a surprise, I think, even to our country and to the rest of the world when we abandoned the leadership and got into the rear-guard action with (an anchor ?) on making a move toward -- moving toward taking action on the environment and global warming.
The global warming is a new issue that didn't exist when I was there, although we first detected it then. But I would hope that we would take the leadership role in accurately describing the problem, not exaggerating it, and tying it in with the conservation of energy as well.
And the clean burning of coal, I think, is a very important issue as well on which we could take the leadership again. I was really surprised when I was in China recently with Rosalynn, and we met with the Chinese leaders and engineers who are very proud of their progress in burning coal cleanly. They haven't learned yet and don't really want to spend the extra price of burying the CO2 deep within the earth, maybe six or seven miles down, but I think they've made some tremendous strides.
And we ought not to abandon great improvements in order to seek for perfection, which might cost five or six times as much to build a plant. So I would like for our country to be in the forefront, not only saying we've got to do something, but precisely in an engineering and scientific way, this is the way we move most effectively. And I think we're also the only one that might extract from the different countries that are ahead of us on solar panel and on wind production and other means and get them to cooperate in a generous way.
The most important single issue might be for the future, Mr. Chairman, is the United States taking a leadership role to encourage, in the future, under tremendous international and domestic pressure, India and China to join with us in becoming much more efficient.
The Carter Center plays a deep and penetrating and constant role in China. I normalized diplomatic relations with China almost exactly 30 years ago, and we've been deeply involved in that country since then. And we've seen there the pressure from their own farmers and others to correct their environmental problems, because all their streams are polluted, basically.
And so they are under great pressure domestically, and I would like to see the United States take a leadership role and say, "Follow us in making sure that you do something about global warming, as well as energy efficiency, in the future." I think the Chinese and Indians would follow us, but they won't act unilaterally if we are the laggard country in the world.
SEN. KERRY: And finally, Mr. President, General Powell and then- Secretary Powell warned in both roles about the national security implications of this issue. The former CIA chiefs of each similarly warned about the national security implications. President Obama has talked about it and other leaders.
Would you just share with the committee -- some people have talked about a 20-fold increase in refugees, struggles over water, drought, poverty will be increased; disease will spread more easily. I wonder if you would share with us, from the perspective that you bring to this, with your years of work now globally in these 120 countries you've visited and 70 countries the Center is in, but also from the view of a former president, making these choices about our security, how you see this issue as we head into Copenhagen, what the American people need to think about in terms of the consequences of this issue on our national security choices.
PRESIDENT CARTER: Well, I mentioned very briefly, I think, in one short paragraph, the (concerns ?) are already on us. Whether we admit it or not, we're very careful not to aggravate our main oil suppliers. We don't admit it, but we have to be cautious. And I'm not criticizing that decision. But some of these people from whom we buy oil and enrich are harboring terrorists. We know it. Some of them are publicly condemning America as a nation and have become our most vocal public critics.
We still buy their oil, and we don't want to alienate them so badly that we can't buy it. And we also see our allies from refraining from putting, I'd say, appropriate influence -- I won't say pressure -- on Iran to change their policy concerning move toward nuclear weapons, because they don't want to interrupt a possible supplier -- one of their most important suppliers of oil.
We have seen also, as I mentioned earlier, the threat to the entire, I'd say, continent of Western Europe by their increasing dependence on fuel from Russia. We saw what they did when they interrupted for weeks at a time natural gas supplies to Ukraine, which also cut off supplies to Europe. That can happen in the future at a time of crisis.
And I would guess that one of the reasons that Europe has been in the forefront of accommodating Russia on their move into Georgia was because of their -- (inaudible) -- anyway, their move -- where was it they moved into recently? Yeah, well, anyway, the Europeans are very cautious, more than we are, about Russian supplies.
I think another thing is that --
SEN. KERRY: I hesitated because I didn't know if you were referring to the Ukraine pressure that took place or to the supply to Europe.
PRESIDENT CARTER: Yeah, that's what -- I first mentioned that in my talk -- (inaudible).
But anyway, the Europeans have seen that they have to accommodate Russia in the future even in maybe more egregious actions in order not to lose their supplies of oil. So I think, to the extent that the western world and the oil-consuming world can reduce our demands, the less we are constrained in freedom of our foreign policy to promote democracy and freedom and international progress.
One of the things that surprised me back in the 1970s was that we even lost a good bit of our supplies from Canada, because when we had the OPEC oil embargo, Canada sent their supplies to other countries as well. So we can't depend just on oil supplies from Mexico and Canada.
I would guess that our entire status, as a leading nation in the world, will depend on the role that we play in energy and environment in the future -- not only removing our vulnerability to possible pressures and blackmail.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
President Carter, in your State of the Union Address of January 23, 1980, which you've mentioned, you articulated what became known to many as the "Carter Doctrine." That has several interpretations, but one of them was that you gave the feeling that the United States would use its military to protect against access -- or to protect our access to Middle Eastern oil.
PRES. CARTER: Exactly.
SEN. LUGAR At the same time, in the same speech, you went on to say, "We must take whatever actions are necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," and you've then illustrated that in your testimony today, with all the actions that you took -- as a matter of fact, in the White House, and in other rhetoric.
This is, it seems to me to be a part of our predicament historically -- at least often in testimony before this committee. The thought is that our relationship with Saudi Arabia has, implicitly or explicitly, for 60 years said, "We want to be friends. Furthermore, we want to make certain that you remain in charge of all of your oil fields because we may need take use of them -- "
PRES. CARTER: (Laughs.)
SEN. LUGAR: --"we would like to have those supplies in a fairly regular way."
Now, on the other hand, we have been saying -- as you've started (sic), and other presidents, that we have an abnormal dependence on foreign oil. And I suppose you could rationalize in saying, well, the Saudi oil is reasonably friendly in comparison now to, say, Venezuela, or Iran, or Russia, or various others, and so we might be able to pick and choose among them.
But, I'm trying to ease my own mind. Perhaps, regardless of presidential leadership, that throughout all this period of time the American public has decided that it wants to buy oil, or it wants to buy products -- whether it be cars, trucks, so forth that use a lot of oil. And as our domestic supplies have declined, that has meant almost necessarily that the amount imported from other places has gone up.
And so, despite the Carter Doctrine -- say, back in '80, we have a huge import, but also a huge export bill. Increasingly, our balance of payments structure has been influenced very adversely by these payments. And so many of us, you know, from time to time, try to think through a -- and each administration has its own iteration. President Bush, most recently, in one of his State of the Union messages says we are, you know, dependent upon foreign oil.
But, at the same time I remember a meeting at the White House in which he said, "A lot of my oil friends are very angry with me for making such a statement." They said, 'what's happened to you, George?'" You know, there's this ambivalence in the American public about the whole situation.
Now, what I want to -- just from your experience, how could we have handled the foreign policy aspect, and/or the rhetoric, or the development, say, from 1980 onward, in different ways as instructive of how we ought to be trying to handle it now? I mean, I'm conscious of the fact that many of us are talking about dependence upon foreign oil. We can even say, as we have in this committee, that you can see a strain of expenditures averaging about $500 million year, even when we were at peace, on our military to really keep the flow going, or offer assurance.
And Secretary Jim Baker once, when pushed, why we were worried about Iraq invading Kuwait, 'well, of course, there was the upset of aggression, but it's the oil.' And many people believe that was the real answer --
PRES. CARTER: (Laughs.)
SEN. LUGAR: -- that essentially we were prepared to go to war, to risk American lives, and were doing so all over oil, so we could continue to run whatever -- SUVs, or whatever else we had here, with all the pleasures to which we've become accustomed.
Why hasn't this dependence -- the foreign policy dilemmas, the economic situation, ever gripped the American public so there was a clear constituency that said, "We've had enough, and our dependence on foreign oil has really got to stop. And we are not inclined to waste the effects of our military trying to protect people who are trying to hurt us?" Can you give us any instruction from your experience?
PRES. CARTER: In the first place, no one can do this except the president -- to bring this issue to the American public, to explain to them their own personal and national interest in controlling the excessive influx of oil and our dependence on uncertain sources. And it requires some sacrifice on the part of Americans -- lower your thermostat.
We actually had a pretty good compliance with the 55-mile-per- hour speed limit for awhile. And people were very proud of the fact that they were saving energy by insulating their homes, and doing things of that kind. And we had remarkable success. I just gave you the results of that four-year effort.
And it wasn't an abandonment when I made three major television, full prime-time addresses, and also spoke to a specific session of Congress, just on energy -- nothing else. That was just the first year. I had to keep it up.
But, by the time 1980 came around we had, basically -- what I proposed at the beginning still held together, and even with reconciliation between Senator Long and Scoop Jackson, which was another major achievement. But, the public joined in and gave us support. The oil companies still were trying to get as much as possible from the rapidly increasing prices. They were not able to do so because of the legislation passed.
In 1979 at Christmas time, though, is when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. And I looked upon that -- as you pointed out, as a direct threat to the security of my country. And I pointed out to the Soviet Union, in a speech, that we would use every resource at our command, not excluding nuclear weapons, to protect America's security. And if they moved out of Afghanistan to try to take over the oil field in the Middle East, this would be a direct threat to our existence economically and we would not abide by it.
And, secretly, we were helping the Freedom Fighters -- who were no longer our friends, in Afghanistan overcome the Soviet invasion, and it never went further down into Iran and Iraq. Unfortunately, though, that same area was then taken over by the war between Iran and Iraq, and all the oil out of those two countries stopped coming forward in those few months. That's when prices escalated greatly.
It's -- (inaudible) -- how much we were able to do building on what President Ford and others had done. And I know that Senator Kerry and McCain recently have sponsored the increased mandatory efficiency of automobiles. When I became president, the average gas mileage on a car was 12 miles per gallon. And we had mandated, by the time I went out of office, 27.5 miles per gallon within eight years.
But, President Reagan and others didn't think that was important, and so it was frittered away. And we still have gone back to the "gas guzzlers," in effect, which I think has been one of the main reasons that Ford and Chrysler and General Motors are in so much trouble now. Instead of being constrained to make efficient automobiles, they made the others that, some would say, made more profit.
And, of course, you have to remember too that the oil companies and the automobile companies have always been in partnership, because the oil companies want to sell as much oil as possible. Even the imported oil, the profit goes to Chevron and others. I'm not knocking profit, but that's a fact. And the oil -- and the automobile companies knew they made more profit on gas guzzlers, so there was kind of a subterranean agreement there.
But, I would say that, still, in the future we look -- we have to look forward to increasing pressures from all these factors. There's no doubt that, as China and India -- just, for instance, approach anywhere near the per capita consumption of oil that America is using now, the pressure on the international oil market is going to be tremendous. And we're going to -- soon, in the future, pass the $110 per gallon figure again.
And when that comes we're going to be in intense competition with other countries that are emerging. I'd just mention two of the so- called "BRIC" countries. I'd mention Brazil and China, but we know that India is also in there, and Russia is too. But, I use the example of the increasing influence of Brazil in a very benevolent way. That's going to continue -- we're going to be competitive with Brazil. And we also are going to be competitive increasingly with China.
Everywhere we go -- you know, if you go anywhere in Latin America, or anywhere in Russia, -- (inaudible) -- in Africa, you see the Chinese presence. A very benevolent presence. Perfectly legitimate.
But anywhere that has coal or oil or copper or iron or so forth, the Chinese are there very quietly buying. The companies themselves are under stress, have the oil in Australia right now. All they are buying the ability to get those raw materials at a very inexpensive way in the future. We're going to be competing with them soon. And they have an enormous build-up now of capital because of our adverse trade balance and buying our bonds. And they are able to give benevolent assistance now, wisely invested into some of the countries that I mentioned earlier.
So I think the whole strategic element of our dealing with the poorest countries in the world, of our dealing with the friendly competitors like Brazil, of our dealing with potential competitors in the future like China, are dependent on unsavory suppliers of oil. All of those things depend on whether or not we have a comprehensive energy policy that saves energy and cuts down on our consumption and also whether we deal with the environment.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Thank you so much. What a wonderful presentation of history from the perspective of somebody who has seen it.
PRES. CARTER: Well, when you get my age and almost your age, you have to look back on history more than the future. Thank you. (Laughter.)
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R-GA): Mr. Chairman. With your permission and that of Senator Cardin, I have a very important place to go, but I've got a very important Georgian here that I wanted the chance to just acknowledge for one minute with your permission.
Mr. President, thanks to you and Rosalind for your service to the state and to the country.
PRES. CARTER: Thank you, Johnny.
SEN. ISAKSON: It's good to have you in Washington and good to see you again. And I want to particularly acknowledge your remarks with regard to renewable energy and your particular focus on nuclear. I know you're a nuclear engineer by profession.
PRES. CARTER: Right.
SEN. ISAKSON: -- in the service, and I think you're exactly right that it's got to be a part of the mix. And I further appreciate, since our state as you know depends heavily on coal for electric generation, your acknowledgement that we should be a leader as our nation in clean coal technology. So thank you for your service, thank you for being here, and thank you for both of those acknowledgements.
PRES. CARTER: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be with you again.
SEN. ISAKSON: Thank you.
SEN. KERRY: And Senator Isakson, I can tell you with assurance that nuclear will be part of the mix, and therefore you're going to say in front of President Carter that you're going to support this bill, right?
PRES. CARTER: We also, we already use a lot of nuclear energy. We're building a new plant now in Georgia, a very large nuclear plant.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Isakson. Senator Cardin.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, Mr. Chairman and Mr. President, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with this committee. We have really hard work to be done. And I'm trying to get the benefit of what you went through in the late '70s and trying to see how we can use that today and learn from what you did in the '70s. And you made an interesting observation that the interest groups will make it difficult for us to get the type of legislation passed that we need to get passed.
And I also agree with your observation that it needs to be a bill that deals with energy and the environment, that if we separate it we're likely to get lost on both.
What I find somewhat disappointing is our failure to get the interest groups that benefit from significant legislative as active as the opponents. It seems to me that if we do this right we're going to create a lot of jobs, because if you're going to deal with alternative energy sources and being more efficient the way we use energy, it's going to create jobs.
And we can get the solar fields out in the rural areas and the wind farms and get them functioning, that's going to create a lot of new jobs, good jobs. And if we retrofit our buildings and do it in the right way, it's going to be construction jobs and building the transit systems. It's going to create job growth for America.
And if we do it in the right environmental way as you have pointed out, it's going to be good for my state of Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay is critically important. We're seeing what global climate change is already meaning for the watermen in our state. So it's going to help in that regard.
And Senator Lugar and you already had I think an excellent exchange on the security front, and a lot of us, there's a lot of interest groups want to make sure that we take care of our national security and we use our military only when we have to. And as you pointed out, we've done that because of oil in too many cases.
So it seems to me that what we need to do is energize the interest groups that have so much to benefit. You talked about balance of payments. Senator Lugar talked about that. That's a huge issue, and a lot of groups that are very interested in what's happening with trade. So is there any experience that you can perhaps share with us as to how we could do a better job in mobilizing the interest groups? I know there's a patriotism; everybody wants to do the right thing. But when it down to it, they're also interested in what they think is in their best immediate interest. And seems to me this is in their best immediate interest.
PRES. CARTER: Well, I deliberately mentioned three different interest groups. One was oil, one was automobiles, and one was consumers. Just to show there's a disparity among them in their opposition to some elements of the comprehensive energy policy that I put forward: the oil companies didn't want to have any of their profits go to the general treasury and for renewable energy and that sort of thing; the consumers didn't want to see the price of natural gas and oil deregulated because they wanted the cheapest possible supplies; the oil companies wanted to sell their natural gas, for instance, just in their own country, in their own states where they were discovered because the only prices controlled on natural gas was if it crossed the state line. There were no restrictions if they sold it in Texas or if they sold it in Oklahoma where the gas was discovered.
And so those interest groups are varied, and they still are. But you will find some interest groups that will oppose any single aspect of multiple issues that will comprise an omnibus package. And they will single-shot it enough to kill it. And then just the lowest common denominator is likely to pass if it's treated in that way. And the only way you can get it passed is to have it all together in one bill so that the consumers will say, Well, I don't like to see the increase in price, but the overall bill is better for me and for the oil companies to say, Well, we don't like to see the government take some of our profits, but the overall bill is good for me. That's the only way you can hope to get it. And that's what I had to deal with for four solid years under very difficult circumstances in the Congress and so forth.
And I think that's a very important issue to make. And to be repetitive, the only person that can do this is the President. The President has got to say, This is important to our nation, for our own self-respect, for our own pride in being a patriot, for saving our own domestic, for creating new jobs and new technology, very exciting new jobs; and also for removing ourselves from the constraint for foreigners who now control a major portion of the decisions made in foreign policy and who endanger our security.
So the totality is the answer to your question. You've got to do it all together in order to meet these individual special interest groups' pressure that will try to approve a tiny portion of it that's better for them, and one by one they will nibble the whole thing away.
SEN. CARDIN: Well, I think that's good advice. President Obama has been very clear about this, and I think he will continue to focus on this. And he clearly has a way of communicating with the American public that --
PRES. CARTER: Much better than I do.
SEN. CARDIN: I don't know about that. But in today's market he is of course inspirational.
PRES. CARTER: It's got to be a high priority for him. I'm not preaching to him because he knows what he's doing.
SEN. CARDIN: I can tell you that he's expressed it to us that this is the highest priority. So I think we'll see that from the President. I congratulate you on getting the bill passed. I hope we have more than one vote lodged in the House. That's cutting it a little close, Mr. President. But we'll do our best to build the type of coalition here that we can get that type of bill passed, and I think your testimony has been very helpful to us. And by the way, I think you communicate very well today. So we might need to have your help also.
PRES. CARTER: Always glad to help.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you.
PRES. CARTER: Senator Cardin, let me say that I think that the fact that Foreign Relations Committee is addressing this is extremely important, not just the Environmental Committee of the Energy Committee, but Foreign Relations because it has so much to do with our interrelationship with almost every other country on earth.
SEN. CARDIN: And we're waging it with all of our parliamentarians in other countries. It's top on our list, so I appreciate you saying that our chairman and ranking member made sure this is brought up at every one of our meetings.
PRES. CARTER: Well, they know what the other leaders think.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Welcome, Mr. President, Rosalind and Amy. Thank you very much for being here.
PRES. CARTER: Thank you for helping me be President.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Well, I was going to say, I also need to thank you for my being here because it was my involvement in your campaign in 1975 that got me into politics. So thank you very much for that. And I can also speak as a consumer about the difference that that omnibus energy bill made for average people like me because my husband and I build our home in Madberry in 1979, and we benefited from a lot of what was in that Omnibus Bill because we built a passive solar design house, and we put solar panels on the roof to heat our hot water, and we put in a furnace that burned wood and oil and garbage, and it's still there saving us money.
But you talked about, from a very unique perspective, about the confluence of energy and security in foreign policy. Can you elaborate a little more on what you were just talking about with Senator Cardin about what a difference it would make to our foreign policy if we are successful in aggressively moving towards energy independence and continuing this kind of commitment that we're talking about needing to do now. What will that mean for this country in the future?
PRES. CARTER: I'd say that it would have two major effects. One, look at our allies in France. You know, all the European countries, Japan and so forth. They would breathe a sign of relief if they knew once again that the United States was in the forefront of the whole world in dealing with energy efficiency, comprehensive use of energy, the advancement of technologies to create new jobs based on new discoveries and new ideas, and also reducing the restraints on themselves for moving toward global warming. They need some leadership on that.
And I would say that the independence that our own country would have in its foreign policy would be also greatly beneficial. Now the countries that supply us with oil are pretty certain that we are not going to do anything drastic that would alienate them. Even when you have some leaders -- I say one of them south of here with whom I'm very well-acquainted -- who has made a profession in the last number of years of publicly attacking and derogating our country. And others that I need not name that I've mentioned just in passing in my talk that we know are harboring terrorists. We can't really put tremendous pressure on them to change their policies on human rights, on the rights of women and so forth, as long as they are the major suppliers of our energy.
Now where we meet in human rights forums in which the Carter Center quite often is involved we have to be very careful not to aggravate our major suppliers of oil, even though they are some of the worst violators of human rights and are the most abusive, say, to Christians and others who want to worship differently or dress differently in their countries. And we know as well, I'm being repetitive now, that the countries in Europe, they won't do anything even in the UN Security Council that would put a little bit of extra pressure on Iran.
I really think that the United States ought to start dealing directly with Iran at as high a level as is possible and save our stature and so forth because I think that they are fearful in some ways within Iran that they are going to be attacked by outsiders. But the point is that our allies that are now dealing with them, the six nations in Europe, are reluctant to do so.
So I think that in many ways that the freedom of our own country, our independence of action in foreign policy, the leadership that we can provide and the support we get from our allies would all be confluent in a bold new step to bring about a correlation between energy efficiency and reduction of excessive dependence on foreign oil and also to promote the beneficial effects of environmental quality.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Thank you.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Senator Shaheen.
SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this meeting again. I think this is extremely important. It's great to see Mr. President.
PRES. CARTER: Nice to see you. Thank you.
SEN. KAUFMAN: How you doing? I think that we're about to have a peanut brigade alumnae association breakout right here. (Inaudible) -- worked in both your campaigns, and truly you've done a great job, not only as president but post-president.
I listened to your testimony and also I'm answering Senator Cardin's question. I don't know whether it's my faulty memory at this age, but I seem to remember on a talk show or question, some body asked you, what was the single thing you learned from being president? And you said, never offer comprehensive legislation.
PRES. CARTER: (Laughs) -- I don't remember saying that, but I don't deny it.
SEN. KAUFMAN: I thought about that in terms of your two comments, one that how difficult it is to get comprehensive legislation through. If there was just --
PRES. CARTER: But I always say, this is about the only issue that I thought had to be treated comprehensively, and it took me an entire four years. And I made so many speeches to the American people, fireside chats and so forth, that the American people finally got sick of it, of my talking. And the Congress was, the Senate and the House were very reluctant to take this up the second year. But I kept on the pressure, and I would say that it was costly politically just to harp on this issue repetitively.
But anyway, I think in general comprehensive legislation may not be good, but in this case I think it's absolutely necessary.
SEN. KAUFMAN: Were faced with a problem we have right now, just to kind of clarify this a little bit.
PRES. CARTER: All right.
SEN. KAUFMAN: If there was one thing you could do, if there was one thing that we could in order to deal with this problem, because you're right about how important energy is to our foreign policy, so they didn't have to go to 173 committees whatever, what would be the one thing you can think of that we could do that would most advance our effect to kind of control this energy thing?
PRES. CARTER: That's a difficult one. I would guess if you look at energy and environment together, I would say take the leadership role in Copenhagen and let the rest of the world know that the United States was once more going to be responsible as the most powerful nation on the earth for the future environmental quality of the earth.
SEN. KAUFMAN: And on the same kind of idea, what is the one piece of alternative technology that you think, if you just could pick one, would be the one thing that we should emphasize?
PRES. CARTER: That's a hard, I don't know quite whether you mean brand new discovery up there or --
SEN. KAUFMAN: Solar energy, nuclear, wind?
PRES. CARTER: I like wind very much. We took our vacation this year in Spain and you drive through Spain and all the way through you see on top of their hills these windmills, and they got to soon be producing 15 percent of all their energy with windmills. And I think they are beautiful, because they kind of remind you of Don Quixote's windmills. But that would be one thing.
And the technology is available. And I think that's one thing that can be done. But still people are reluctant to have the windmills. I notice that one of our most famous senators has been in opposition to windmills being off the coast of his beach home. But I think we need to move on the windmill issue, and I think that the subject that Senator Kerry and I have discussed briefly at lunch about the clean burning of coal, I would say the most important single long- term benefit to our country would be that, to learn how to burn coal cleanly.
And I don't think it's beyond the possibility of engineering and science. And the Chinese have made a major step forward. Their coal- burning plants are much more efficient and much cleaner-burning than ours are. The ultimate is to take, get rid of all the sulfur dioxides and so forth and also the carbon dioxide.
But the only way to get rid of all the carbon dioxide that we know yet is to pipe it five or six miles deep in the earth and store it down there under high pressure. That can be very expensive. In the meantime I think that's the number one technological advance that would help our country because we have 300 or 400 years of coal burning.
When I was president, by the way, there was a difference in western coal and eastern coal. The eastern coal supported by Senator Byrd held its own just because of him. But back in those days we were worried about sulfur content and the western coal was much superior. But nowadays the eastern coal has a lot higher energy quotient, and might be more attractive for carbon dioxide. So there's kind of a balance there. But eastern or western coal is still the number one producer of electricity now and to find technology that were to burn it more cleanly and efficiently and environmentally better is the number one technological breakthrough that I would like to see.
SEN. KAUFMAN: You know, you watched this for so many years, and it's happening again -- you know, the price of oil went up. Everybody wanted a hybrid.
PRES. CARTER: It's going to drop again.
SEN. KAUFMAN: Yeah. But I'm just saying, right now it's back down, and hybrid sales are going down.
PRES. CARTER: I know.
KA : Do you have any thoughts on how we should deal with that or just wait for it to go back up again?
PRES. CARTER: I think just take the best advantage of whatever market presents itself now. We're enjoying $50 oil now. It has been up to $130. When I was in the White House it was up to $112 I think based on present prices.
You know, one thing too that we did, it's been mentioned several times, is nuclear power. I was in favor of the Nevada storage facility. I know that our majority leader is not now. But somehow or another we've got to be able to go toward nuclear fuel. And we can continue burying nuclear waste material for a long time, just on local sites. It doesn't take much.
But there are new technologies there also that are available, and I'm not revealing any secrets when I say that when I was a young naval officer I was in charge of building the second atomic submarine. It's connected in New York, the power plant. And at that time and still in domestic power plants you have to refuel about every three years. The finest war ship on earth now is named USS Jimmy Carter. And it has a nuclear power plant that will never have to be refueled. The nuclear power plant fuel cells will last longer than the hull, it will last longer than 45 years.
So you see the point I'm making is that technological advances in coal-burning and in nuclear power are there providing our nation's great scientific and engineering capability are marshaled and focused on those key opportunities.
SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you, Mr. President.
PRES. CARTER: Sure.
SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you, Chairman.
SEN. KERRY: Mr. President, thank you very, very much. We are enormously grateful to you. We just had a call from President George Herbert Walker Bush contesting, he wants to debate you on which is the finest aircraft carrier, his or yours.
PRES. CARTER: I didn't say aircraft carrier. I said war ship. He'll still want a debate.
SEN. KERRY: Carry yourself like a good Navy man.
PRES. CARTER: All right.
SEN. KERRY: Mr. President, we have a terrific second panel. Chairman, President, CEO of Fed Ex, Fred Smith; and General Chuck Wald, former deputy commander of the European Command are going to come to the table. And we'll recess just for 60 seconds so that you can come out back here with Rosalind.
PRES. CARTER: I wish I could stay and hear the second panel. We've got to go --
SEN. KERRY: If I could just say, Mr. President, we're very grateful to you for coming today, and I want to express on behalf of the whole committee the admiration of all of us for your leadership around the world and for the courage with which you've given definition of the words "public citizen" and "public servant." We're very grateful to you. Thank you, sir. Thank you.