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To help the U.S. get through the winter with the least disruption, the President issued some immediate belt-tightening directives and requests. These aim to reduce the nation's consumption of oil by almost the amount that the Arabs are withholding. If the Arab boycott continues much longer, it will cut 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 bbl. out of the normal U.S. supply of 17 million bbl. per day. To make up for that, Nixon:
> Ordered public utilities and other companies to halt any plans for shifting away from coal and into oil as a fuel.
> Reduced the Government's allocations of jet fuel for aircraft, a move that will diminish the number of commercial flights by more than 10%.
> Called on homeowners to turn their thermostats down to a daytime average of about 68° (v. a normal 74° in American homes).
> Urged managers of offices, factories and stores to reduce energy consumption by 10%, either by using less heat or cutting down on working hours.
> Asked Governors to enact ordinances holding speeds to 50 m.p.h.
The President also urged Congress to enact by December an emergency energy bill that would give him much broader powers. These would include authority to order Daylight Saving Time year round, override temporarily federal, state and local clean-air acts in order to permit more burning of high-polluting coal, and restrict business hours in shopping centers and other enterprises. In addition, the President asked for authority to open up for commercial drilling the naval petroleum reserves at Elk Hills, Calif. All these powers would be given to the President under a bill sponsored by Washington Democratic Senator Henry Jackson. The Jackson bill is likely to pass before Congress adjourns in mid-December.
Even so, many energy experts argued that Nixon's message was neither urgent or sweeping enough. Says Lester Lees, director of the California Institute of Technology's environmental control laboratory: "The President's program is too little and too late." Lees would have liked the President to call for such measures as revisions in building codes to require more home insulation and reductions in military exercises to save fuel.
Rationing by Spring. Many of the broad controls that the President wants will be enormously difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. Thus he may be forced to use the authority that Congress is likely to give him to impose gasoline rationing, which he greatly wants to avoid. Rationing would be far more disruptive and politically sensitive now than it was during World War II. Today rambling suburbs have spread out of urban areas, and millions of Americans drive to work by car. Still, John Love, the White House Energy Adviser, predicts that gasoline rationing will be necessary by next spring no matter what happens in the Middle East.