The Carter administration's year-long effort to educate the public about the seriousness of the energy situation has made no progress.
Just one year ago President Carter called the energy crisis the "moral equivalent of war," but during the 12 months since, the percentage of Americans who describe the energy situation as "very serious" is exactly the same as it was a year ago.
Specifically, Carter and his administration have failed to convey a full realization of the amount of oil the nation must import, the effect this has in increasing the U.S. balance of trade deficit, the resulting decline in the value of the dollar, and the dire effect all of this is having on inflation.
The public's understanding of the U.S. need to import petroleum has improved, however, during the last year.
Currently 60 percent know the United States must buy oil abroad to meet its energy demands - a significant improvement since last year when only 52 percent were aware of this. However, in the latest survey 40 percent still believe the United States produces enough oil domestically to meet our needs or don't know what the situation is.
However, when those who realize we have to import oil are asked what percentage of oil the United States actually gets from abroad, answers indicate the vast majority have no better idea today than was the case last year. (The latest figures put the import level at 49 percent of total usage.)
The two most frequently discussed ways to reduce the consumption of gasoline have been the institution of a rationing program or increasing taxes to discourage drivers from driving more than is necessary.
In most nations, for example, there have been substantial increases in gasoline prices so the price per gallon generally ranges between $1.50 and $2.50 per gallon.
Just how large a tax or price increase would be sufficient to curtail consumption in the United States is a matter of speculation. However, if the choice came down to either a rationing program that would force drivers to cut the number of miles they drive by about one-fourth or an increase of 25 cents per gallon for gasoline, the public would favor a rationing program.