There’s much afoot in Washington these days over the prospect of new policies to address climate change and to put the U.S. on more solid footing when it comes to consuming and producing energy. We’ll know more as time goes on as to whether the Biden administration and Congress can reach the difficult agreements necessary to put new policies in place.
Yet, even as we contemplate the possibilities, it’s worth taking a look back at how the U.S. energy policy has evolved over the years, especially during the 1970s, when energy crises roiled energy markets and Washington enacted more energy laws than at any other time.
In this edition of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless speaks with Jay Hakes, the author of a new book that looks closely at that era. It’s called “Energy Crises: Nixon, Ford and Carter, and Hard Choices in the 1970s.”
Jay is a former head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration and former director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.
In his book, Jay describes events of the 1970s like the long gasoline lines amid the Arab oil embargo and the fall of the shah of Iran, the fuel shortages that closed schools and factories, the military and political tensions in the oil-rich Middle East and the sky-high inflation that wreaked havoc in the nation’s economy.
More to the point, he writes deeply about the perceptions of these events by the men who occupied the White House then, their determination to end U.S. reliance on foreign oil, and their successes and failures to persuade Congress to go along with their energy agendas.
In short, Jay tells us that the 1970s hold a pre-eminent place in the U.S. when it comes to energy, and he reminds us, as well, that actions then set the foundation for today’s energy production and consumption trends.
Bill Loveless: Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange, a weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. From Washington, I’m Bill Loveless. There's much afoot in Washington these days over the prospect of new policies to address climate change and to put the U.S. on more solid footing when it comes to consuming and producing energy. We'll know more as time goes on as to whether the Biden administration and Congress can reach the difficult agreements necessary to put new policies in place. Yet, even as we contemplate the possibilities, it's worth taking a look back at how the U.S. Energy Policy has evolved over the years, especially during the 1970s, when energy crises roiled energy markets, and Washington enacted more energy laws than at any other time. Well, quite conveniently, there's a new book out that looks closely at that era. It's called “Energy Crises: Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Hard Choices in the 1970s.” Its author is Jay Hakes, a former head of the Energy Information Administration, and former Director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and I'm pleased to host him in this episode of Columbia Energy Exchange.
In his book, Jay describes events of the 1970s like the long gasoline lines amid the Arab oil embargo and the fall of the Shah of Iran, the fuel shortages that closed schools and factories, the military and political tensions in the oil-rich Middle East and the sky-high inflation that wreaked havoc in the nation’s economy. More to the point, he writes deeply about the perceptions of these events by the men who occupied the White House then, their determination to end U.S. reliance on foreign oil, and their successes and failures to persuade Congress to go along with their energy agendas. In short, Jay tells us that the 1970s hold a pre-eminent place in the U.S. when it comes to energy, and he reminds us, as well, that actions then set the foundation for today’s energy production and consumption trends.
Well, let's hear it from the author, Jay Hakes. I hope you enjoy our conversation. Jay Hakes, welcome to Columbia Energy Exchange.
Jay Hakes: Thank you, Bill. It's great to be here.
Bill Loveless: Well, Jay, many of our listeners recall you as the Director of the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, but for those of our audience who may not be as familiar with you, tell us what sort of career path you followed and what brings you to the energetic work you're doing today as an energy environmental historian and author.
Jay Hakes: Well, yeah, I won't go on for too long. But, you know, I started my career as a university professor at the University of New Orleans, I taught political science and I got tenure at a fairly young age. But I was, I guess, a little distracted by the world of politics and government. And so I ran actually Jimmy Carter's primary campaign for President in Louisiana in 1976. In those days, volunteers were more important than they are today. Then I had the chance to move to Washington. So I worked a little bit at the Agency for International Development, the Interior Department and the White House for a while. At Interior at that time, even though the Energy Department was being created, certain energy functions like offshore drilling remained at Interior. Then, after Carter lost, I moved to work for a popular Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham. And during that stint, I served five years as the Energy Director for the state of Florida. And that really got me into the National Discussion of Energy because we had a lot of interchange among the states. Then, as you mentioned, that led more or less to being head of the Energy Information Administration during the Clinton years. That was a very exciting time, because that was when the Netscape browser was coming out. And I think we figured out before most government agencies how to get onto the web and make information available.
Bill Loveless: Yeah, as a reporter at the time, I would agree with everything you just said.
Jay Hakes: I remember an interview you did with me and you said Jay Hakes wants to bring clear writing to the Department of Energy. And you mentioned that I was looking at how we could take advantage of the digital revolution and this is very early in the digital revolution. But then I made a turn that might surprise some people because I was called by the Jimmy Carter's office to see if I was interested in an upcoming vacancy as director of the Carter Presidential Library. And that's not quite as big a break as it might look, because as a former academic and someone who always had an interest in presidential history and actually had taught some courses in the presidency in my university days, it made sense. And I was there for 13 years. And it kind of opened my eyes to all the records that are available at the White House and the tapes and films and things that would enable us to answer questions that I'd had and other people had if you took the time and I saw the declassification that was going on with the help of the State Department in the CIA. And but when I was there, I was thinking, I don't want to be running big offices. For the rest of my life, I enjoy the intellectual part of this, and I wanted to be an author or I'd been an author in the academic world, but to be more focused on energy. And it was a little complicated, because I'd have to take time off to do my personal research at the Carter Library. So I'd be in the Carter Library as a public citizen, not as the director of the library with no special privileges and so that led to what I do now and it's partly being in my office at home writing, doing research, but then that's mixed with very serious trips to big archives, where I'll spend a week glued to a chair, I don't eat lunch, I get there, when it opens, I'm there, when it closes, I'd make copies of the articles. And then at the end of the day, I go have a great meal at some restaurant. But so that's how I've lived the recent years. And it's been very rewarding, because I'm answering a lot of questions that I've been curious about and I hope other people are curious about them too.
Bill Loveless: Well, you've answered many questions that I've had, certainly over the years, but once again, with his very rich and deeply researched book, you know, for years as a reporter, I'd ride along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, to cover congressional hearings. And along the way, I pass the National Archives, which as you know, is engraved with a quote from Shakespeare, “what is past is prologue.? And for a reporter, it was a good reminder to understand that what happens in the past was important to make sense of in order to appreciate what was happening at the moment. In the preference to your book you right, that the 1970s holds a preeminent place in the U.S. when it comes to energy. Tell us what you mean by that.
Jay Hakes: Well, one way to stated it, my friend, Tyler Priest, who is one of the great energy historians in the country, says if you're looking at an American government textbook, energy might enter in once or twice, maybe when Colonel Drake found oil back in 1859 and then the Arab Oil Embargo, which ran in 1973 and 74. And so I think for a lot of energy experts, they see that as a pivotal moment when the United States kind of got this stark warning that the world power balance had been altered that our energy position was not what it had been before. And so that that's always, I think been recognized. But when you look at it more broadly, in 1970, that's when oil production in the United States peaked and then went down for a long time. And MGUs use was rising. So this made us more vulnerable. That was about the time when OPEC became more powerful. In 1970, we also passed the Clean Air Act. That wasn't what I would call a crisis, but it was something that brought big change to the field of energy.
Then in 1977, we had nationwide natural gas shortages that closed down schools. In 1979, we had the Three Mile Island nuclear accident. And then after the fall of the Shah of Iran, we had another big gasoline shortage. And then I also throw in Iran and Iraq went to war before Carter left office, which was another shock to the world oil market. So, most books might have called it energy crisis. I very purposely chose energy crises in the plural because there was a lot that went on. And in every one of these cases, there's a lot to be learned and not everything has been known about them, even though they're much discussed sometimes it's not based on what actually happened or the full record.
Bill Loveless: Yeah. And the point you make here, too, is that there are lessons to be learned here from what happened in that era. And we can certainly examine that, particularly today as we see a relatively new President, Joe Biden, with a rather ambitious energy policy and one that would also address climate change. But back to some of his predecessors, Nixon, Ford, and Carter, they all dealt with these crises, as you put it, and there was some agreement among them as to how to address the situations as well as some differences. Each also handled the situation in his own way. Where do we find the similarities and the differences among these three leaders?
Jay Hakes: Well, that's a fascinating question. Because I think when we look at this period, carefully, we learn a lot about energy and we learn a lot about presidents. And I think with Nixon, what differentiated him from Ford and Carter was he was so concentrated on getting reelected. And this was kind of what got him in trouble on Watergate. But he kind of pushed aside the energy problem, because he thought it was too controversial. And it seemed like something that was a distant problem rather than an immediate problem, even though his staff kept saying you got to do something about this and here's the options. And I listened to every Nixon tape I could find where he discussed energy.
And he had this great conversation with John Ehrlichman and Ehrlichman said, you've got to take a look at the energy option papers we prepared. And Nixon said, well, people aren't going to worry about energy unless the air conditioning goes off. And Ehrlichman looked at him and said, Well, I guess you're right, you're never going to get a crisis, Kudo for a crisis you prevent. And that's a pretty profound understanding of energy, where the politics and the policy kind of conflict and you could say that about the Texas recent electricity outage. There were warnings, we've got to do something about this, but it's easier to kick the can down the road.
So that's one thing we've learned, I could probably make a list of 20 things. But I do think that the decade illustrates the importance of research and development, even though the benefits don't pay off. And this is where we have some similarities between the Presidents that you refer to because after the Arab oil embargo, Nixon began to change his tune and he went on television and said, energy is our number one issue, which was reflected in the polls. And he started upping the investment in energy technologies other than just nuclear technology. And then Ford increased that substantially. And then Carter just went on steroids. He had the money from the windfall profits tax. So there was a lot of money. And it was put into things like what we call today fracking, it was put into photovoltaic solar cells. And even though a lot of that funding was cut off in the 1980s, it still affects us today.
So I think, my book was, particularly its early versions, was kind of long. It was at one point, maybe twice as long as the current 400 pages. But so one publisher said, well, you got enough here for two books do Nixon and Ford and one book and Carter and another and I balked at that, because I think to see the 70s as a continuum, particularly because it was so different from the 80s that there's a lot of value in that. So I, who studies Ford that carefully, but I have four chapters on Ford and under Ford, it was when the automobile efficiency standards came in. And now, Nixon didn't take a stand on that. But Nixon actually wanted a 50 mile per hour speed limit. It ended up being 55 for a while and Ford and Carter strictly enforced that, but Nixon, it used to drive him crazy when he saw somebody driving a big car and just one person in the car. And he wrote that into a speech one time with his own pen, I go through all the different versions of the speeches. And so it's fascinating, I think we'll learn, you know a lot about energy. And as I said, I think we'll learn about three very interesting presidents.
Bill Loveless: Well you know, getting back to Nixon in 1973 he set a goal of U.S. Energy Independence by 1980 and he was in his second term during the Arab oil embargo of 1973. But his involvement in Energy Policy, not to mention environmental policy began before that, before the embargo?
Jay Hakes: Well, yeah, I mean, it's forgotten even by energy experts, but when he came in, one of the first things that happened was the Santa Barbara oil spill. And so this raised to a very high level, the debate about how you value the environment and energy production on federal lands. And Nixon true to form was balanced. He said, we've got to meet the needs of the environment, we need to get access to this oil. And then also, we had an embargo on imported oil, right, not an embargo, but quotas. And the way the quotas were structured, we didn't allow really any import of oil from Iran or Saudi Arabia for national security reasons. And then in the spring of 73, we end the quotas on Saudi Arabia and then that fall, they put the embargo on us. So that whole era of putting on the quotas on foreign oil, which meant we didn't transition gradually to the new realities of the world oil market is often forgotten. And I think it's an interesting story. It's actually the some of the legislation that was used to create these oil quotas were the legislation that President Trump cited when he put in trade restrictions. So, there's all these little connections both within the decade and with that decade to the world we live in today.
Bill Loveless: Right. And regulation played a big part in the Energy Policy of that era, right, both in terms of the supply and the price of oil and gas?
Jay Hakes: Exactly. And in some ways, I have a hard time, I'm trying to tell the story of the 1970s and what are the most important lessons may be for the reader to determine. But I do think that this whole thing of regulation versus deregulation because for those who oppose almost any kind of government regulation, the 70s have become kind of the poster child of regulation gone amok. And many of their assertions are correct. And my book will add new fodder to that fire about how bad the government efforts to control the price of oil and gasoline and also to allocate oil and gasoline just were major factors in making a bad situation worse.
But there were also things that I would think of as good regulation, the Clean Air Act, the automobile efficiency standards, we created the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, where the government would hold reserves for emergencies. Not everyone might agree with me, but I think that was constructive development gave us greater leverage even when we forget about it, it does provide us some leverage if someone's threatening to cut off our oil supply. So I'm arguing that what we have to do is become smart enough to tell the difference between good regulation and bad regulation. Everybody has a poster sticker either attacking regulation or they want big government. And we have to realize that government can sometimes make things worse and sometimes it can make things better. So let's figure out what the difference is.
Bill Loveless: You know, of those measures you just mentioned the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and of course the fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. Those and other things were done during the Ford administration, as we may have forgotten of at least forgotten the timing of it was 1975, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. It also did other things such as established fuel, establish efficiency standards for appliances and it also expanded government authority to order power plants to displace oil and gas with coal and this was definitely a trend of that era. It became even stronger in following after Ford left office that is replacing - promoting coal as the is the preferred fuel for power plants?
Jay Hakes: Yes, I think the understanding was that there was a competition going on between nuclear energy and coal energy. And the view at the time, I think, which turned out to be correct was that coal was going to be cheaper than nuclear. But then it went even further than that, because all three presidents strongly supported converting coal into liquid fuel and gaseous fuel, which from a climate standpoint would have been a real big step backwards. And for economic and other reasons that never really happened. But coal did emerge from the 70s, kind of ruling the roost and oil was pretty much removed from the electricity generation sector. But oil continued to be sort of the king of fuels because it runs our transportation system. And at the time, there was a little bit of discussion about you could have electric cars, but the idea was that we've got to have access to oil, if people want to be able to fly and drive.
Bill Loveless: Yeah, well then, of course, following for Jimmy Carter comes to office, he arrives, as you remind us with the coldest winter in 90 years amid shortages of heating fuels. You know, I think it's fair to say that Carter, of the three he was the most accomplished on energy policy. And some might say, that's true in comparison with certainly some of his successors at the White House. He gets off the ground quickly with approval from Congress on natural gas pricing legislation and then quickly gives that famous speech, the so-called cardigan sweater speech, where he calls for a comprehensive national energy policy and tells us, “We must face the fact that the energy shortage is permanent.”
Jay Hakes: Yeah, that's an interesting point, because it was conventional wisdom at the time that we were running out of gas and oil. And that was one of the reasons that people were promoting nuclear because they thought the United States supplies would be pretty much exhausted by the mid 1980s. And it wasn't just Carter, Secretary of Energy Schlesinger, who was a very smart guy, he believed that, frankly, the old companies ran ads saying we're going to run short, we can't keep up this level of production. So that was a prevalent attitude. But fortunately, people weren't totally consistent about that, because we were investing at the same time in what was called new alternative ways of getting oil and gas. And it turns out that those little investments overturned the prevailing attitude at that time. Now, I actually went to George Mitchell's first commercial fracking, well must have been 19-.
Bill Loveless: We should remind people, George Mitchell, independent oil man, Texas, considered the pioneer of fracking?
Jay Hakes: Right, he started in the 1970s, getting government support, technical support, tax breaks and fine-tuned a lot of how to make a fracked well work financially. And but it isn't until you know, 2005 to 2007, that the real revolution starts, but the roots of that are in the 1970s. So they kind of threw the kitchen sink at it. They thought we're going to run out of oil and gas. And then they ended up creating technologies that today I would argue the world can produce a lot more oil and gas than we need. And that's a whole different mindset from what it was in the 1970s.
Bill Loveless: Yeah. And Carter pushed through a lot of legislation, a lot through Congress. I mean, not much is often written of tensions he had with his own party, the Democratic Party, who didn't necessarily agree with him on many things. But when it came to energy, despite pitched battles on Capitol Hill, he got a lot of legislation through on a number of different issues.
Jay Hakes: Yeah, I think the picture of Carter as not being adept at congressional relations is on the whole not correct. That's not to say that in the first few months in Washington, they didn't ruffle a few feathers. But Carter spent a lot of time even when he was at Camp David working on the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, his only work effort during that time other than the treaty was he was making calls to Congress on the energy legislation, and it was a lot of calls. So the Democrats as much as they complained, they enjoyed having a Democratic president. They'd had the Nixon Ford years. And, yeah, they had their fights with Carter, but they passed a lot. They didn't always pass it as quickly as he wanted. But there were two big blocks of legislation, there was this original energy package, which didn't pass the Senate and conference committee till late in 78. And then they came back as oil continued to be a problem and came in with additional legislation later on. But if you combine what was a little bit of energy legislation was passed under Nixon, very significant legislation under Ford in 1975 and then more under Carter. So it was a very fertile period. And you got to give a shout out to some people in the Congress like “Scoop” Jackson or John Dingell or other people who were - originate a lot of the ideas. they don't know, originate in the White House, you know, so we have to bring the Congress into the discussion as well.
Bill Loveless: Tick off for some for us, some of those major legislative accomplishments, some of which remain on the books today, some don't?
Jay Hakes: Well, the one that I think I would point to is the investments in research and development, which I referred to a little bit earlier. But up until those days, the non-defense budget was going mainly to space. And today, most of our non-defense budget goes to health. But in that particular period, we really up the investment of energy and diversify the energy portfolio. So it wasn't just nuclear, which it had pretty much been to that time. But there were things like the requirement of what's known as PURPA, where people who have alternative sources of power can sell into the grid that that was created at the time.
Bill Loveless: Yeah, that was the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act?
Jay Hakes: Right, which turned out to have a huge impact and some of the legislation was not particularly helpful, because there was the Fuel Use Act, which prevented the construction of new natural gas plants. And that was a discouraging factor for people who might be drilling for what would be high price gas. But as EIA began to argue in the 1990s, the combined cycle plants that would use natural gas to create electricity were so efficient and economical that even gas at a high price could be competitive. So eventually, we got in later days, we got rid of Fuel Use Act, but there was a lot of the ethanol industry was created at that time. We created the solar research labs at that time. And so it was, as I say, in energy there's no silver bullet to any problem. But you can find a lot of silver buckshot and it's a little bit I feel that way about climate change, because people would like you to say, Well, here's the one thing we need to do and it's really paying attention to it across the whole spectrum.
Bill Loveless: Right, right. Well, he was. I mean, among other things, they finally began to deal more effectively, perhaps with natural gas pricing and the decontrol of that that had been a big argument and a fierce battle and throughout his administration. He kept the pressure on writing until the end. I mean, early on, we had his strong statements, as I mentioned before, he had declared the energy dealing with the energy crisis, the moral equivalent of war at one point towards the end of his presidency, he delivered still another speech on the topic where he referred to the crisis of confidence in the US and said - that was when he made the he said, “Beginning this moment, this was 1979, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977. Never.”
Jay Hakes: Yeah, and we came pretty close to that. You know, after that, we actually cut our imported oil from 8.4 million barrels a day to 4.2 million barrels a day from a peak in 77 to the early 80s. And half of it occurred when Carter was president. And the other half occurred when Reagan was President. So the Democrats and Republicans have never agreed on who should get the credit for it, but it happened. And so we actually, by the mid 80s, were using less imported oil than any of the most optimistic goals that have been stated during the 1970s, it was one of those things. Energy's an area where you get momentum if things are growing, it's hard to stop them from growing, but when you turn the ship around, it can sometimes move faster than you think the other direction and in the 80s, partly because of what we did in the 70s, OPEC was kind of a spent force. They had to slash production and even then, they couldn't support the high prices. So I think the 70s deserve a little more credit than they've received. And it was painful, because when Carter decided to deregulate oil prices in the short term that contributed to inflation and inflation was already very high.
So a lot of economists, who favored deregulation told Carter, don't do this. And he felt it was our only option because the Europeans were putting in Japanese, we're putting in big gasoline taxes. And that was not feasible in the United States. And the book details, a number of cases where people tried very hard to get gasoline taxes passed and it just blew up in their face. But the one thing we could do was quit keeping our price of oil below the world market price. And we could do that by starting to deregulate our price controls. And so Carter did that realizing that at election time, that might not be a plus, because the economy was going to have to be adjusting to that situation. I think almost everybody would agree it was good for the country in the long run. But in the short term, it was tough political medicine.
Bill Loveless: Carter was a member of the Nuclear Navy under Admiral Hyman Rick was to serve, I believe, right in the Seawolf nuclear submarine. But then nuclear sort of plateaued in terms of new orders and all. It was on the on the rise in the 50s and 60s, into the 70s and then it began to struggle in terms of the economics of the issue. And of course, in 79, there was Three Mile Island, which sort of put a halt to new orders.
Jay Hakes: Yeah, to look at it in broad history that in some ways, the zenith for nuclear in the United States was in 1966. And that was because in that year, most new orders for electric generating plants were nuclear. And that was an incredibly rapid pace, because this was still a very new technology. But even before Three Mile Island, there were starting to be more cancellations than there were new orders. And the reason for that was that the economics weren't working out that well. For one thing, nuclear plants of that period, were only operating about 55% of the time today, they operate over 90%. And just the cost versus coal was not working out for nuclear. So they were already in trouble by the time of Three Mile Island. Three Mile Island, there was a move to stop constructing new nuclear plants and Carter with the help of Mo Udall, incidentally, who is a sometimes, critic of nuclear power, but they both felt that we shouldn't shut down the nuclear industry. And we built quite a few plants, dozens of plants, after Three Mile Island or, they weren't new orders, there were no more new orders after that. But we finished the plants we had started. And so you can see in the 80s, our carbon emissions aren't going up very much in the United States that's partly because the cars were getting more efficient, but it was also we had these new nuclear plants coming online. So again, if you kind of take this global view across several periods of time, things start to fall in place. And the nuclear part of this is itself, you know, that was another one of the crises that I discussed, but Carter was the right President for the right time because it not only that he helped develop the nuclear subs, one of his last assignments in the Navy was to go up to Canada to clean up the first major nuclear accident. And he actually is probably one of the most radiated persons in the United States today, because the radiation standards in the early 50s were much laxer than they are today. And he was trained to go quickly into the room and do what he had to do to fix it. And he's still going strong at 96. But at the time, he wouldn't deal with the top of people as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, because he didn't think they knew enough about nuclear energy. So he was calling on a daily basis, Howard Denton, who was the scientist on site and they had a great working relationship.
Bill Loveless: You know, of course, our conversation comes, as we discussed, as President Biden unveil some of his $2 trillion infrastructure bill whose Energy and Climate provisions represent some of the most ambitious efforts ever for policy in these areas. How does the narrative you tell apply to what's happening today?
Jay Hakes: Well, I think there are two sides of the coin. One is that government spending makes a difference. You could also see this with the stimulus package back in the early Obama years, I went in, I live at that time, within walking distance of Georgia Tech University. And I would go there and they would show me all the research that was being done on photovoltaic technologies, due to this influx of government money. On the other hand, government has to be careful that it understands how the private sector works. And so I think there needs to be both a commitment to devote government resources, but also a careful eye on - an eye to make sure that we're not wasting money or being counterproductive. I think the wasting money argument can be a little bit misleading, because a government investment in R&D is a little bit like venture capital, you don't assume that every technology that you invest in is going to pay off, all it takes is some of them to pay off. So I think it's going to take patience, you have to have a long-term perspective on it. I am a little bit uncomfortable with comparing this to World War Two because if you do something for five years in energy and then stop doing it, you lose a lot of the benefit. And we had years of what I call the years of complacency in energy that got us into some of our current predicaments. So what I would argue for in the Biden approach and everybody else is to have a game plan where every year you're upping the investment in technology and making technical progress, because technical progress doesn't just jump out of the lab into the market. So as someone who's followed this for years, I think it's very refreshing to see this level of commitment where we're way past the time of climate denialism, at least by the decision makers today. And so then the question is, what's the smartest way we can do that? And so you have to this again, Ford, Nixon and Carter all struggled, how are we going to explain this complicated thing to the general public? And that's kind of what you do, Bill and what I try to do. And so, you know, the easy way to describe what we're doing now, is to say, we've got to get electric generation down to zero carbon and then electrify as much as we can. Now, that doesn't solve every problem or explain every detail, but it sort of provides a roadmap for the general public, what we're trying to do and then you know, Bill Gates says, we got to deal with cement. Well, yes, we have to deal with cement and there's a lot of things we have to deal with. So more people are going to school, in universities these days are studying climate and various aspects of the science and technology. So I'm leaning towards the optimistic side that that we're going to we have a good shot at stopping it from going above two degrees centigrade increase.
Bill Loveless: You mentioned of course, climate change wasn't much of a topic is barely a mention of it in your book Jake, but I recall laid in Carter's administration, Congress assigned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to head a 10-year study of causes and effects of acid rain. It also directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House to collaborate with the National Academy of Sciences on a study of the impact of fossil fuel combustion and synthetic fuels from coal on level of CO2 in the atmosphere. So there was some thought given?
Jay Hakes: Yeah, and you know, if I'd written 1000-page book, there would have been more, you know, I would like to have put more climate in because in 1979, there were five major studies done on climate, either by the American Association for the Advancement science, the National Science Foundation, and the White House did a couple. And the reason they're not so much in this book is that it would have been inaccurate to describe them as a front burner issue. I mean, what people were worried about was dependence on foreign oil. So to solve this dilemma, I'm writing another book. And I'm well along on it. It will start in the 1950s with President Eisenhower. And to sort of anchor this a little bit the first congressional testimony on climate change that I could find and I think it's probably the first is 1956. And I can document that every White House, Eisenhower forward, someone there was well aware of climate change science. So and I want to bring that up through Clinton and so I've done research up at presidential libraries through George Bush, the father, been doing research at the archives of the major scientists, the early pioneers, one of whom was Wally Broecker of Columbia University, quite influential in the 1960s and 70s. So that will be another book and so I'll sort of slice out from the pie the climate, and I think people will be amazed at how early this was being discussed. But among all the other issues, it was the easiest can to kick down the road because the damage was going to come in the 21st century mainly. But the carbon stays up in the air for the atmosphere for over 100 years. So it's not a good thing to kick down the road. So I think that will be another interesting book, where history will be able to make a good contribution to our current understanding.
Bill Loveless: Yeah, I can, of course, as we learned so much over the years, I recall, thanks to arrangements you helped to make when you were head of the Carter library, I got to interview President Carter in 2011 on energy issues, and I asked him about his strong support for coal. And, you know, he acknowledged you would have made different decisions himself if he had been more aware of the dangers of climate change. He said, if I'd known, I doubt I would have done those things. And it's only been since then, over the last 25 years or more, he said that it has been proven to be it has been proven that the early indications were indeed an underestimation of the deleterious effect on human beings of burning too much coal and other fuels. So, you know, we learn as time goes on.
Jay Hakes: Well, I found an incredible document from his principal science advisor Frank Press, and it says coal is going to be the dominant fuel into the 21st century. But sometime in the first couple of decades of the 21st century, we will have advanced enough for solar to emerge as the alternative. And it was sort of pointing towards 2020. So they sort of got what was going to happen.
Bill Loveless: Well, I'm afraid that's all the time we have my friend, but thanks for taking the time to join us on Columbia Energy Exchange to talk about your new book and help us understand better why our grasp of events today relies so much on our understanding of what happened before.
Jay Hakes: Thank you so much.
Bill Loveless: Again, the book is “Energy Crises: Nixon, Ford and Carter and Hard Choices in the 1970s.” I highly recommend it. For more on the Center on Global Energy Policy and Columbia Energy Exchange, find us on the web at energypolicy.columbia.edu and on social media @ColumbiaUEnergy. For Columbia Energy Exchange, I'm Bill Loveless. We'll be back again next week with another conversation.