Published April 1974 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd A Costly But Necessary Undertaking Some commentators contend that making the United States self-sufficient in energy will be too costly. They say, further, that the goal cannot be reached by 1980. There is more merit to the second contention than to the first. It is improbable that all that must be done will be done in the next six years, considering the technological, developmental, and financial problems involved. West Virginians well know, for example, that getting new coal mines into production is a time-consuming and very costly process. There are difficulties that must be overcome, also, before the production of synthetic fuels from coal becomes a commercial reality. And getting oil from the shales of the West means the development of a whole new industry. But there can be no question, in my judgment, about the necessity for our country to become self-sufficient in energy whatever the difficulties or the cost. The strings attached to the lifting of the oil embargo-and the possibility of its USE again should alert us sufficiently to the risks inherent in dependency upon foreign sources for the fuel our nation must have. Much more than gas for vacations and Sunday driving is involved. The security of our country could be at stake. In the event of war, the U.S. would be in deep trouble without sufficient fuel for ships, planes, tanks, and factories. Germany, in World War II, knew this, and a generation ago it synthetically produced the fuel it needed from coal. WE should note well the fact that the Soviet Union - despite this era of "detente" urged Middle Eastern oil producers to continue their boycott. There are other compelling reasons for energy self-sufficiency-- among them the fact that, every year, every industrial nation is using more energy; and the demand will continue to increase. The quantity of oil, even in the Middle East, is finite. It will one day be used up. The need for energy from other sources can only grow more urgent with the passage of time. The lifting of the oil embargo should be no cause for complacency, or for raising doubts about the wisdom of reaching the goal that has been set. A nation that can spend billions on space exploration can afford to do no less when the energy for its survival and growth is involved.