The California gasoline crisis was already in existence when President Carter arrived in that state this month. Tuesday's Washington Post incorrectly stated that Carter arrived on the West Coast on the eve of the crisis.
Republican presidential candidate John B. Connally sharply criticized the Carter administration's energy policies today and said it was "sheer nonsense" to blame oil companies for the gasoline shortages.
In a speech to a national convention of securities analysts, Connally said the nation must burn more coal, use more coal gasification and build more nuclear plants in order not to be held hostage by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Statements by President Carter and other administration officials about "price gouging" and windfall profits, Connally said, are "sham and demagoguery" that attempt to make a scapegoat of U.S. oil companies.
Connally declined, when asked directly, to call Carter a demagogue. Asked his opinion of the president's energy policies, Connally replied: "His program on energy, like almost all of his programs, have lacked vision, have lacked direction, have lacked clarity."
Connally's call for increased production of energy, even if it means relaxing environmental controls, was warmly applauded by more than 700 securities analysts.
While all the convention speakers sounded themes of deregulation or decontrol, the one who clearly made the biggest hit was Connally, who told reporters afterward that he believes he is gaining on former California governor Ronald Reagan for the GOP presidential nomination.
Connally said his candidacy has been aided by the twin concerns of energy and inflation, the issues on which he speaks out most frequently.
Though denying that he is in any way a spokesman for the oil industry, the former Texas governor and U.S. treasury secretary lived up to his reputation as an ardent advocate of unrestrained free-market energy policies.
Connally said current gasoline shortages are not the products of oil company manipulation but of a dislocation in the world oil market caused by the loss of Iranian oil. He called the present gasoline crisis a delayed reaction to the "jolt in the pipeline" caused by the change of governments in Iran and said it would last 30 to 60 days longer.
Connally predicted that other shortages and prices rises would occur periodically until the United States starts meeting more ot its own energy needs.
At one point in his speech Connally seemed to be suggesting that the United States should be prepared to take military action if necessary to insure an adequate oil supply. He said the Soviet Union had "encircled the oil of the Middle East" and declared that the United States must "use its utmost in diplomacy and strength - economic strength, military strength, diplomatic strength - in order to secure freedom in this part of the world."
When he was questioned about this phrase by reporters, Connally said he was not advocating military intervention in the Middle East, merely stressing how "absolutely critical" the area is for the economic well being of the United States.
In another speech to the convention, Paul, E. Erdman, author of "The Crash of '79," discussed the possibility of U.S. intervention in response to a hypothetical Iran-style coup in Saudi Arabia.
Erdman said jokingly that Connally would send in the U.S. Marines, that Reagan would give "his same boring speech in hopes that it would put everybody to sleep and we could walk in," and that President Carter would ask for standby invasion authority and be turned down by Congress.
But on a serious note afterward, Erdman predicted that Connally will be a formidable presidential candidate.
"What's going on now" in energy and the economy "will cause a renewed shift to the right - and I think that's good for a guy like Connally." Erdman said.
Another former governor and Nixon administration officials, Walter Hickel of Alaska, also is attending the convention. He said he is strongly supporting Connally's presidential candidacy and blamed Carter for helping to create the mood for an energy crisis.
"If you want to have a shortage of eggs, say you're going to have a shortage of eggs," Hickel said.
Predicting a severe gasoline shortage was exactly what Carter did in California was the eve of the state's present severe shortage. Addressing a Hispanic festivity in Los Angeles on May 5, the president said: "The supply and shortages are going to get worse. There's less fuel in the future and you'll pay more for it."