Last May Deputy Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon told a Senate committee that there was only one sure cure for U.S. fuel shortages: "power to create a barrel of oil or gasoline." His appointment as head of the new Federal Energy Administration will not make him that kind of magician, but it will vastly enhance his ability to impress on the rest of Government a sense of urgency about the energy crisis. Simon has been displaying that urgency for months.
The contrast between Simon and John A. Love, the man he will replace as energy czar, could hardly be greater. Love, a former Colorado Governor, has been described by one Government energy official as "a pleasant guy who just doesn't want to make a decision if he can avoid it." Wall Streeter Simon is known for decisiveness and a hot temper. In not quite a year in Washington, he has also displayed a talent for bureaucratic infighting. A good five months before the Arab embargo, Simon, as head of the Government's Oil Policy Committee, was already talking about the possibility of imposing a 50-m.p.h. speed limit on motorists. In June he drafted a mandatory allocation program for home heating oil, and lobbied it through to final adoption by the Administration in Octoberover the initial opposition of Love, among others.
Simon's grasp of the seriousness of the problem is the more surprising since he had no special background in the oil business when he entered the Government. He was then known on Wall Street as a bond trader who had an uncanny sense of when to buy and sell. Simon, a New Jerseyan, started his career as a brokerage-house trainee in 1952, a year after graduating from Lafayette College. By the time President Nixon tapped him for the Treasury in December 1972, he had become a senior partner of Salomon Brothers, one of the nation's biggest investment banking houses, in charge of all trading in Government and municipal bonds. That job gave him an income more than sufficient to support his wife Carol and seven children: his share in Salomon's profits by the time he left was estimated at $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 a year (much of which he had to reinvest in the business under a company rule). His move to the $42,500-a-year Treasury job must have involved one of the biggest income reductions ever taken by anyone to come to Washington.