Clean Energy, Energy Conservation, ‘Planetary Destiny’: Richard Nixon 1972

Reposted from MasterResource

By Robert Bradley Jr. — February 8, 2021

“… to a significant extent man commands as well the very destiny of this planet where he lives, and the destiny of all life upon it.”

“In order to have both environmental quality and an improving standard of living, we will need to develop new clean energy sources and to learn to use energy more efficiently.”

– President Richard Nixon (February 8, 1972)

Government grows with emergencies, real or imagined. There have been wartime emergencies, such as World War II. And there have been Malthusian ’emergencies’–as in resource exhaustion in the 1970s and climate change today.

Forty-nine years ago today, amid a natural gas shortage (from long-standing price controls), and with tightening oil markets (from his price controls), President Nixon gave a “Special Message to Congress Outlining the 1972 Environmental Program.” Substitute ‘climate’ for ‘energy’ and a half-century of time comes together.

President Biden’s “existential threat of our time” rings the same bell as Richard Nixon’s “energy crisis,” President Ford’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, and President Carter’s “moral equivalent of war.”

Excerpts from Nixon’s 1972 Special Message follow:

To the Congress of the United States:

From the very first, the American spirit has been one of self-reliance and confident action. Always we have been a people to say with Henley “I am the master of my fate . . . the captain of my soul”–a people sure that man commands his own destiny. What has dawned dramatically upon us in recent years, though, is a new recognition that to a significant extent man commands as well the very destiny of this planet where he lives, and the destiny of all life upon it. We have even begun to see that these destinies are not many and separate at all–that in fact they are indivisibly one.

This is the environmental awakening. It marks a new sensitivity of the American spirit and a new maturity of American public life. It is working a revolution in values, as commitment to responsible partnership with nature replaces cavalier assumptions that we can play God with our surroundings and survive….

On the first day of this decade I stated that “it is literally now or never” for true quality of life in America…. I urgently solicit the continuing cooperation of the Congress and the American people….

[Priorities include] Clean energy research and energy conservation measures … Expanding international cooperation on the environment … Establishment of a United Nations… Fund for the Environment … Enlisting the young …


Ours is an energy-based economy, and energy resources are the basis for future economic progress. Yet the consumption of energy-producing fuels contributes to many of our most serious pollution problems. In order to have both environmental quality and an improving standard of living, we will need to develop new clean energy sources and to learn to use energy more efficiently.

Our success in meeting energy needs while preventing adverse environmental effects from energy generation and transmission will depend heavily on the state of available technology. In my message to the Congress on energy of last June, I announced a series of steps to increase research on clean and efficient energy production. But further action is needed.

As part of my new commitment to augment Federal research and development and target it more effectively on solving domestic problems, I have requested in the 1973 budget an additional $88 million for development of a broad spectrum of new technologies for producing clean energy.

In addition to carrying forward the priority efforts I have already announced the liquid metal fast breeder reactor, pipeline quality gas from coal, and sulfur oxide control technology–the budget provides funds for new or increased efforts on fusion power, solar energy, magneto-hydrodynamics, industrial gas from coal, dry cooling towers for power plant waste heat, large energy storage batteries and advanced underground electric transmission lines. These new efforts relate to both our immediate and our future energy problems, and are needed to assure adequate supplies of clean energy.

My message on energy also announced several steps that would be taken by the Federal Government to use energy more efficiently and with less environmental harm. One of these steps was issuance by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development of revised standards for insulation in new federally insured houses. The new standards for single-family structures, which have now been issued through the Federal Housing Administration, reduce the maximum permissible heat loss by about one-third for a typical home. The fuel savings which will result from the application of these new standards will, in an average climate, exceed in one year the cost of the additional insulation required.

I am now directing the Secretary o! Housing and Urban Development to issue revised insulation standards for apartments and other multifamily structures not covered by the earlier revision. The new rules will cut maximum permissible heat loss by 40%. The savings in fuel costs after a 5-year period will on the average more than offset the additional construction costs occasioned by these revised standards.

These stricter insulation standards are only one example of administrative actions which can be taken by the Federal Government to eliminate wasteful use of energy. The Federal Government can and must provide leadership by finding and implementing additional ways of reducing such waste.

I have therefore instructed the Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Science and Technology, working with other Federal agencies, to conduct a survey to determine what additional actions might be taken to conserve energy in Federal activities.

This survey will look at innovative ways to reduce wasteful consumption of energy while also reducing total costs and undesirable environmental impact…..


Our destiny is one: this the environmental awakening has taught America in these first years of the seventies. Let us never forget, though, that it is not a destiny of fear, but of promise. As I stated last August in transmitting the Second Annual Report of the Council on Environmental Quality:

The work of environmental improvement is a task for all our people . . . The achievement of that goal will challenge the creativity of our science and technology, the enterprise and adaptability of our industry, the responsiveness and sense of balance of our political and legal institutions, and the resourcefulness and the capacity of this country to honor those human values upon which the quality of our national life must ultimately depend.” We shall rise to the challenge of solving our environmental problems by enlisting the creative energy of all of our citizens in a cause truly worthy of the best that each can bring to it.

While we share our environmental problems with all the people of the world, our industrial might, which has made us the leader among nations in terms of material well-being, also gives us the responsibility of dealing with environmental problems first among the nations….



February 8, 1972.

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Tom Halla
February 8, 2021 2:14 pm

Richard Nixon on “How to be counterproductive”? It reminds me of why I despised him then, and discover new reasons to buttress my original evaluation of him.

Reply to  Tom Halla
February 8, 2021 2:25 pm

After what we’ve seen from Biden, Nixon is starting to look pretty good.

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Scissor
February 8, 2021 2:31 pm

Undoubtedly there are those who could make Biden look good — scary.

Reply to  Kevin kilty
February 8, 2021 3:47 pm

Good news – it was a hooker in Hunter Biden’s foot job video and not his niece.

Reply to  Scissor
February 8, 2021 4:01 pm

Even if you have 100% solid evidence that it is indeed a hooker, you still have not provided any evidence that it is not his niece.

Last edited 1 year ago by DonM
Reply to  DonM
February 8, 2021 5:46 pm

I didn’t think of that. Makes sense.

February 8, 2021 2:37 pm

Energy policy ignorance is bipartisan and so is forgetting Mr. Market response to prices and short term scarcities. They don’t have the background for it and the input advice they are getting is often wrong and or biased. The speechwriters aren’t much help either.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 8, 2021 5:20 pm

Nixon didn’t understand economics. He imposed price controls at one time that ended badly.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 8, 2021 5:49 pm

History 101: Price controls don’t work

by Jack Rafuse
June 7, 2007

“For decades, the price and availability of gas has generated political heat. As a former Nixon administration official, I’ve been there and seen that. But what is surprising is the unwillingness of some in today’s Congress to learn from our mistakes. Bills in the Senate and House today want to impose price controls on gasoline.
For those with memories shorter than mine, President Richard M. Nixon imposed wage and price controls on Aug. 15, 1971. Oil and gas were two of many commodities affected. An initial 90-day freeze turned into more than 1,000 days before the controls were dismantled. Inflation — just above 4 percent in 1971 — was in double digits when the controls were lifted.”

end excerpt

Last edited 1 year ago by Tom Abbott
February 8, 2021 2:49 pm

we will need to develop new clean energy sources and to learn to use energy more efficiently.”

This doesn’t sound so bad. Air and water is cleaner now than it was then, in many places. Being more efficient is nice, too.

But at what cost? I’d like to see a cost/benefit analysis, always. For example, our house, we could isolate it better. For about CHF 100’000.-, we’d probably save CHF 1’000.- per year. No, thanks.

Then there’s the side effects, the unintended consequences. Airtight isolation? You leave a window slightly open. Poor workmanship? You get condensation inside your walls, rotting wood and worse. Again, no, thanks.

Reply to  lbeyeler
February 8, 2021 4:11 pm

Unintended consequences….

A system that can define CO2 as a pollutant.

A system that requires Federal permits to put a driveway across your roadside ditch.

A system that defines regulated ‘wetland’ differently in different parts of the country.

A system where one federal agency can sue another to get the regulations changed, rather than wait for the legislature to recognize a real need.

A system where regulations are more important than outcome or cost/benefit.


Last edited 1 year ago by DonM
Robert MacLellan
Reply to  lbeyeler
February 8, 2021 6:14 pm

Yeah, I remember those days. My parents finally exercised my father’s DVA benefits to build a new house not long after that. The old house was so drafty the curtains fluttered like flags but wasn’t cold since it was heated by a coal furnace. In fact it was downright balmy.The new house was all electric in design, baseboard heaters, and he argued with the (DVA) building inspector over it. In the end he got the inspection finished then added a wood stove which became the primary heat source. This was before the code changed to require air to air heat exchangers. Olther houses of the same vintage had terrible issues. It was an interesting build for a teenager since everything needed to be inspected twice, once by the municipal/provincial inspector and a second time by a DVA inspector who was much stricter.

Ron Long
February 8, 2021 3:40 pm

If someone asked Richard Nixon if he believed CO2 was a pollutant and we should therefore stop nuclear power plant construction and switch to expensive and erratically available wind and solar power he would think it was a trick question and wonder what the political consequences would be if he told you so. Nixon was a good person who made one big mistake in after-the-fact covering up watergate. I stood close to him on the Sabre Heliport runway, in DiAn, Vietnam in 1969 and the troops loved him.

H. D. Hoese
February 8, 2021 3:45 pm

There was still some justification for serious concern then, and petroleum products were involved. Unfortunately they have been demonized like carbon dioxide and nitrogen, proving that it is the demonization, not the actual ‘demon’ root cause and it was demon-strated. [come to think of it there is a carbon dioxide Root Effect] I wrote one of the earliest environmental impact statements, something like three pages for a coastal pipeline. It wouldn’t change much today except for the regulatory paperwork, maybe requires simulations. I had some background back then and took a short course in thermodynamics. The first ‘clean’ wind turbines were produced, all I knew of became either fossils or demolished. It wasn’t from lack of wind. When Hazmat suits became used to pick up beach oil, no wonder there doesn’t take much for a viral panic.

Most, maybe nearly all, of this can be found somewhere in the scientific literature, but getting relatively scarcer, except for some rediscovery proving another fallacy. I had built an all-electric house in 1968, but it eventually required gas. Last I heard it still does. I built another in 1998 in a somewhat warmer climate, made more sense. Still may need gas.

Patrick B
February 8, 2021 5:13 pm

The problem is government never responds to market forces. It just creates self-perpetuating bureaucracies and entrenched special interests that feed at the government trough.

so programs that addressed real problems in the 70’s have grown to address imaginary problems today.

February 8, 2021 6:09 pm

nobody doubts this. but when you don’t factor in solar panel life spans and disposal of turbine blades, well …don’t be surprised if we don’t take you seriously

Peta of Newark
February 8, 2021 7:08 pm

Did Nixon mention these sorts of thing:

“”Snow bringing some disruption from Tuesday morning
What to expect

  • Travel delays on roads are likely, stranding some vehicles and passengers
  • Some delays and cancellations to rail and air travel are likely
  • There is a good chance that some rural communities could become cut off
  • Power cuts are likely and other services, such as mobile phone coverage, may be affected””

That is from the UK Met Office describing an Amber Snow Warning
It is what I was under last night when I ventured outside to find samples of Obtainium so I might cultivate some coral in my kitchen sink. Remember?

It did snow, about 1cm and melted by lunchtime. Has snowed again but just ‘a dusting’
What I would call ‘paranoia
Note also their priorities and the ‘good’ chance that rural communities will be cut off.
Cutting people off is ‘good’
Thank you Auntie Beeb. Thank you Boris. Thank you soooo much

Meanwhile on their Advice Page concerning travel during The Amber Snow Warning, we see this
“”Winter can sometimes make it difficult to cycle, but Sustrans have come up with some helpful tips on how to stay happy and safe on your bike during cold and icy weather.””

Cycle. In an Amber Snow Warning?
What kind of serious criminal homicidal mental disorder have these people actually got?
We know why, because our upcoming electric jalopies will have had their batteries drained, then disconnected from the grid, so as to keep the mobile phones charged up.
sigh Let me out.

I can answer my own question and could have provided pictures if I’d bookmarked the tsunami of stuff that came out of the BBC immediately following and indeed all through Mr Trump’s election & presidency.
4 years ago, not A Single Day passed without at least 2 front page stories bad-mouthing Mr Trump.
From the ‘cofefe’ word, misspelt tweets, orange faces etc

If that behaviour had occurred in real life with one-on-one personal attacks of that intensity and duration, the perpetrator would be in jail now.
Obsessive. Compulsive. Constant Harassment & Stalking perpetrated electronically.
There again, it is very rare for young children to be actually jailed, that’s gotta be how they get away with it
The Human Animal Cannot Lie: everybody knows the BBC is full of children yet dare not speak the words. Likewise the BBC Bible = The Grauniad

By comparison, in fact nothing to compare, BBC coverage of Biden is Totally Perfectly Zero. Nil. Not A Peep

Wonder why, Shirley not because Joe = A Total Zero?
I couldn’t possibly comment. In any case, Auntie Beeb would cancel me if I did = another of my T-Shirts

The rare appearance of photos of Joe speak volumes – only seems to be one picture of him, or if more than one, they are all of that blank zombie stare straight into the camera
By comparison, we never saw two identical photos of Donald – he really was a ‘Man Of Action’
Remind me: What’s that they say about pictures & words?

Last edited 1 year ago by Peta of Newark
Kit P
February 8, 2021 8:02 pm

For those who were not around in 1970, the were real environmental and energy problems 1970.

For example where I lived when joining the navy, in snowed gray. We had a coal plant downtown. My mom’s house was heated with an inefficient oil fired furnace converted from coal. No insulation in the attic. Pollution control on my old Impala was a tune up and new air filter. Did not do it to be ‘green’! Starting when it was 30 below F was good.

When I got out of the navy 10 years later, I had my pick of nuclear jobs. I did make one mistake while in the navy. I voted Jimmy carter but only once.

Fast forward another 10 years and by 1990 our air and water was clean thanks Nixon era CWA and CAA.

Just for the record, it is personal. My mother died the day I got out of the navy. She was a casualty of the energy crisis.

Mom always told us that if the goverment was helping you, you were in trouble. She was in trouble. She fell at work and could not get workman’s compensation because they said she had a brain tumor which caused her to fall. My sister found out the city was helping with utilities and had it all arranged.

I got a phone call later that my mom had not heat. Called a friend who had worked in the mayor’s office. Told him I was PO. I knew how to make nuke plants work and how to make the heat never work again in the mayor’s house. Then I would work my way down the city council.

As some members of congress recently found out, the difference between terrorism and civil disobedience depends on if it your office that is being occupied.

I just got in the door of my mom’s warm house on emergency leave and still in my dress blues, when two tall men in suits show up to explain the mix up. They investigated and determined that she was a rich republican.

That was true. Mom always said that poverty was a state of mind. You could never be poor if you lived in a town with a good library.

I may have been wearing the uniform of privileged white men but they did not come to attention until I said two words. The name of the center of the football team. Stepped nose to nose and informed them that I was no longer the smallest kid in school but I was still the meanest SOB that they never wanted to get on the wrong side of.

Stepped back and told them I knew where their mothers lived. What do you think will happen when I tell your mothers how you treated my mother.

Doorbell rings and it is man from the power company to turn off the electricity. I invite him in because it very cold and he looks around and notices two suits at attention. As I start to explain my mom is sick he cuts me off saying the power will never be turned off.

Bottom line is while being treated for cancer, having heat is a good thing. She died of complications of the flu.

Anyhow, we cleaned up the environment and insulated the houses. We did not declare victory.
New fake problems like PM 2.5 and greenhouse gas were invented. This made energy more expensive but did not improve the environment.

Look closely at legislation for energy and the environment you will find line items for insulating homes and providing assistant to the poor for energy.

I think these are good thing to do in principle. First create a problem, then claim to fix it.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Kit P
February 9, 2021 5:38 pm

Kit P

Thank you for taking the time to write your story. Many truths in there. The problem for the EPA was it existed as a bureaucracy that ran out of big problems to solve. So they invented “lower limits” to implement and “linear no threshold” exposures. After that everything is a toxin and needs regulation.

If a crisis is correctly framed, it is self-perpetuating.

Kit P
Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
February 10, 2021 10:37 am

“linear no threshold” 

That concept applies to nuclear radiation which is regulated by the NRC.

Regulations for mercury and PM 2.5 for coal plants was politically motivated and forced by congress.

My rates went up 3 cents /kwh as a result of capital costs.

The air quality was already ‘good’.

Things like mercury, radiation, and wildfires are natural. It is always present.

The water discharged from my nuke plant was cleaner than intake from the river.

Airborne levels in the reactor building were lower than outside because natural levels of radon.

February 9, 2021 12:32 am

Missed opportunity USA…

Now the USA is falling behind the rest of the world. Sad to see it.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  griff
February 9, 2021 1:08 pm

You’re right, griff. The US is dead last in electricity prices. China Joe is doing his best to fix that, though.

February 9, 2021 4:00 am

ah yes that was when usa offshored manufacturing and us other idiots did too
we got cleaner and china got dirty and dirty rich(for some)
and people lost good skilled jobs unemployment rose and society started the downhill slide

Bob Meyer
Reply to  ozspeaksup
February 9, 2021 11:34 am

Manufacturing jobs began the decline in 1972 due to automation, not outsourcing. It’s a straight exponential decline unaffected by China or NAFTA. Manufacturing jobs as a proportion of total jobs began to decline in 1947.

70% – 80% of automobile emissions were cut by the addition of the PCV valve (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) which cost a few dollars. The platinum catalytic converter helped cut emissions but probably not as much as fuel injection and computerized ignition timing. The last two were more for efficiency than cleaner air.

More efficient use of energy is not just compatible with clean air, it makes clean air more achievable. Years of idiotic price controls on energy inhibited the development of more efficient ways of utilizing energy. As usual, government caused the problem, then took credit for “fixing” it.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
February 9, 2021 11:39 pm

Nixon opened the US to trade with China. How did that work out?

Steven Johnson
February 9, 2021 6:20 am

Thanks for the article and extracts! Clean energy is the future. Clean energy, recycling, waste reduction, switch to bio-fuel. I wonder how much gasoline people have saved since the opening of electric cars. I wish there was some kind of app that shows this.

Kit P
Reply to  Steven Johnson
February 9, 2021 9:54 am

I can not tell if this is sarcasm or some clueless valley girl spending her day looking at her cell phone.

Regular people save gasoline by carpooling or go for walks not buying expensive BEV.

I can just picture Steven rear ending some helpless family while checking his app to see how much gasoline he is saving.

All energy produced in the US is clean. A regulatory requirement starting in the Nixon years and finishing up before

BEV are a dirty use of clean energy. My 90s environmental textbooks call BEV = EEV. That is elsewhere emission vehicles.

I love how Clinton, Obama, and now Biden take credit for previous administration accomplishments. Clean energy is not the future it has been the present for 40 years.

For example, air quality was often very bad around lumber mills from open burning of wood waste. That was replaced burning wood waste in fluidized bed boilers to make

February 10, 2021 4:51 pm

Most likely that bell was influenced by a very wealthy family with a history of funding leftist causes

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