So long as America depends most on the energy resources it has the least reserves in, it will continue to be susceptible to the kind of crisis caused by the Arab oil embargo of 1973, says an official of the Phillips Petroleum Co.
"We rely most heavily on our scarcest fuels: oil and natural gas," Charles M. Kittrell, an executive vice president, said in a recent interview. "They supply 75 percent of the energy we use, but they account for only 7 percent of our country's energy reserves."
Kittrell also contends that the U.S. underuses its most available fuels: coal and uranium. "They supply only a little over 20 percent of our energy, even though they make up more than 90 percent of our nation's conventional energy reserves," he says.
Contending that the use of foreign oil costs the U.S. "more than $120 million a day," and "hurts our balance of payments, endangers our national security and costs us hundreds of thousands of jobs," Kittrell called on Congress and President Carter to take a more dramatic lack in their efforts to create a national energy strategy.
"This administration has the unmitigated gall to call this a gas decontrol bill," Kittrell said. That bill provides a long-term timetable to decontrol natural gas prices.
Kittrell said he didn't believe the bill would "bring forth any new gas, except in areas like New Mexico and Utah, where the market might absorb it."
Kittrell said that new energy forms such as solar energy "will not amount to much for the rest of this century." He blames that situation on the failure of the U.S. government to let the free market influence the energy business.
Calling solar units for heating and cooling homes "the caviar of fuel systems . . . too expensive for most homeowner's tastes," Kittrell said research into alternate energy sources will not be significant until the government gets out of the marketplace.
"When government starts fiddling with energy prices, that marketplace short circuits," he said. "And eventually the consumer gets burned."
He said that if gas prices were deregulated and allowed to rise, "There would be more pressure on private industry to come up with alternatives, and to spend money on such things as solar research."
Government policies to hold down the price of natural gas and domestic oil are not consistent with efforts to get the public to conserve energy, Kittrell said.
"In fact, where the marketplace economics are allowed to work, Americans do conserve," he added. "Sales of home insulation have been at all-time highs for two years now, since before the president announced his energy plan. Sales of heat pumps have skyrocketed nearly 400 percent since 1973."