Faced with deepening energy problems, the Soviet leadership today reluctantly reduced coal and oil production targets for 1980 and set up a new high-level commission to solve its threatening energy crisis.
In a series of grim reports on the nation's lack-luster economic performance in 1979 and projections for 1980, President Leonid Brezhnev and senior state planners said major new steps must be taken to save heat and power and perfect new energy sources, such as synthetic fuels and solar power generation.
Brezhnev made clear the urgency of the Soviet dilemma: Although it is the world's largest oil producer, massive efforts in recent years to expand oil and coal production have fallen short of goals, while outmoded and chronically wasteful basic industries threaten to outstrip energy supplies.
Oil production fell about 100,000 barrels per day below goal for 1979, it was disclosed, and coal production fell short by 7 million tons. These shortfalls cannot be made up. The planners revised the 1980 targets to 606 million tons of oil instead of the original goal of 620-640 million tons, and lowered coal targets to 745 million tons instead of the planned 790-810 million tons.
The results and projections come after controversial Central Intelligence Agency estimates that the Soviet Union will encounter increasing oil production difficulties in the mid-1980s and become a net importer of oil to power its economy. The Soviets have bitterly denounced those estimates but the figures disclosed today and the harsh tone of Brezhnev in excoriating major segments of Soviet industry underscores the seriousness of the longterm problems here.
In a speech yesterday to a Central Committee plenary session, the text of which was made public today in the party newspaper Pravda, Brezhnev criticized 10 economic chiefs and managers by name for poor performance.
"It is necessary to find those who are to blame for every 'shortage' caused by irresponsibility and to punish them," he declared. He named key officials in the transport, power, machine-tool, fertilizers, chemical, food and dairy and consumer goods industries, saying he found major shortcomings, waste and indiscipline. The step of naming the officials publicly is unusually harsh.
Brezhnev's attack by inference includes Premier Alexei Kosysin, who heads the national economy. Kosygin, 75, is recovering from a heart attack, according to Soviet sources, and was absent from both the plenum and today's public session of the Supreme Soviet, or legislature.
Brezhnev said major research and engineering efforts must be accelerated to provide the U.S.S.R. with large-scale atomic power complexes, fast breeder and fusion reactor power plants, synthetic fuel, and solar and geothermal energy. He said that in January, the state planning committee, Gosplan, must submit "general concepts" of possible solutions through 1990 for Soviet energy and economic problems.
He declared that "plans for saving fuels [for winter use] must be fulfilled by all means. [This] continues to be a major nationwide task." He asserted the country must look well into the future to determine "the energy situation on which the economic growth of the country depends."
Nicolai Baibakov, chairman of Gosplan, indicated that the national economy grew by about 3.6 percent in 1979, compared with a target of 5.7 percent set a year ago by Baibakov and endorsed by the leadership and figurehead parliament. Each year during 1970s, the Soviet economy has expanded, but at steadily decreasing rates.
Baibakov pegged the 1980 growth rate for heavy industry and consumed goods at 4.5 percent, a modest increase compared with previous annual projections.
Soviet production in most key economic areas was badly retarded by last winter's severe cold snap, the worst recorded in European Russia in a century.