Remarks at the Opening Ceremonies for the Knoxville International Energy Exposition (World's Fair) in Tennessee

May 1, 1982

Ladies and gentlemen, your Governor, Senator Baker, your Congressmen, members of our Cabinet, and a good friend and loyal Tennessean, Dinah Shore:

It's a special pleasure for me to be here this afternoon in the shadow of the Sunsphere, a symbol of energy potential, near the banks of the Tennessee River, whose force we have tapped for centuries.

All Americans can be proud of this World's Fair that we open today. For the next 6 months, we'll be host to representatives of 22 nations -- more countries than have participated in any world exposition in more than a decade. Here in Knoxville, in the Tennessee foothills, in the hometown of John Duncan, the home State of my good friends Howard Baker and Lamar Alexander, Robin Beard, and Jimmy Quillen, the world will share its knowledge, accomplishments, and hopes for tomorrow. Americans welcome the world to Tennessee.

The technology exhibited here once seemed as fanciful as the extraction of sunbeams from cucumbers in ``Gulliver's Travels.'' But as de Tocqueville said, when people live in democracy, enlightenment, and freedom, their societies will be marked by scientific genius and discovery.

The countries represented here hold out the hands of friendship and cooperation; let us join them. Inventors of the world share the discoveries of their laboratories, universities, and research centers; let us pool our knowledge, technology, and our dreams. In the days and months ahead, let this spot be the focus of progress, not only in the field of energy but for the cause of the peace.

The theme of this fair, ``Energy Turns the World,'' is appropriate for this decade, as our nation and many of our allies struggle to produce and use energy efficiently -- to provide for our energy security.

We've seen the havoc and felt the pain brought on when vital energy sources outside our influence have been cut off. We've seen our economies manipulated, our industries hamstrung, and our people squeezed between scarcity and inflation. Together and independently, we've taken steps to make sure that never again will we be so vulnerable.

Here in America, in this administration, our national energy policy dictates that one of the government's chief energy roles is to guard against sudden interruptions of energy supplies. In the past, we tried to manage a shortage by interfering with the market process. The results were gas lines, bottlenecks, and bureaucracy. A newly created Department of Energy passed more regulations, hired more bureaucrats, raised taxes, and spent much more money, and it didn't produce a single drop of oil. In fact, American oil production continued to decline. Just as in today -- and too many other cases -- government did not solve the problem; it became the problem.

Our administration is determined to press forward for real solutions. Already we have dramatically increased our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Instead of managing scarcity, we'll help ensure continued supplies from a strategic stockpile, alleviating shortages while permitting the private market to work.

Our stockpile, I'm happy to tell you, is now one of the largest in the world -- more than a quarter billion barrels -- an amount greater than 135 days' supply of the crude oil we import from the Arab OPEC nations. Last year, this reserve has been stocked with more than twice as much oil as was accumulated in the preceding 4 years. We will increase it to nearly three times our current supply as a symbol to our allies of our resolve to reduce our vulnerability. We will ensure that our people and our economy are never again held hostage by the whim of any country or cartel.

In the area of conservation, our industries and our citizens have increased energy efficiency and cut back on waste. The amount of goods and services that we produce for each unit of energy went up last year by 4\1/2\ percent -- the greatest increase in 30 years. For the last several months, our net oil imports have been less than half of their 1977 levels. But energy is still a great concern. Even with our improved conservation, we consume 16 million barrels of oil a day.

Now, let me give you an idea how many 16 million barrels is. Imagine the distance to the Moon. If those 16 million barrels were stacked up each day, they'd reach the Moon about once a month. We're the world's largest consumer of energy. But we use that energy well.

We are one of the most productive nations in the world. Estimates show that the 25 eastern States and Washington, D.C. -- which expends most of its energy shuffling paper -- produce about as much in goods and services as the entire Soviet Union. And with only 5 percent of the world's population, we Americans account for more than 21 percent of the world's output. But we can't afford to be complacent. Our energy appetite means our energy production must be allowed to keep pace.

In the last year, our oil production in the lower 48 States ended its decades-long decline. In 1981 America produced nearly 90 percent of the energy that is consumed. What caused this turnaround? The same principle responsible for most of the prosperity, production, and progress in the world today: free enterprise.

Our economic and energy problems were in large part caused by government excesses and quick fixes, not by a basic scarcity of supply. Our principles have not failed us. Too many times, we have failed to live up to our principles.

Since January 1981, when I ordered immediate decontrol of oil, we have removed requirements for more than a million man-hours of energy-related paperwork, eliminated more than 200 energy-related regulations, cut taxes to encourage capital investment, begun to dismantle the Department of Energy, and reduced spending nearly $5 billion from the levels proposed by the previous administration. We're unleashing, again, the power of our people and the forces of democratic capitalism.

Skeptics said the decontrol of oil would send prices soaring. But the price of gas at the pumps has been dropping. Gasoline prices, at last, no longer lead inflation but are actually holding it down. Within a year of decontrol, more than 1,000 new drilling rigs began searching for oil and natural gas. Forty percent more successful oil wells were completed in '81 than the year before. In February our oil production was the greatest it's been for the last 2 years. There is magic in the free marketplace, and it works.

Although oil has been decontrolled, natural gas, the nation's largest source of domestic energy production, remains under price controls. As a result, natural gas wells have increased only 10 percent. The legislative agenda this year is too crowded to handle the issue of natural gas decontrol. But if America is to provide for her energy security, if we're to continue growing more self-reliant, if we're to free ourselves from foreign pressure, we must press toward the ultimate solution to our energy problems: the decontrol of all of our energy sources, including natural gas. And this we shall do.

Within our boundaries and just off our shores, experts estimate that compared to our current reserves, three times as much oil and gas are yet to be discovered. We're also blessed with a quarter of the free world's coal and uranium resources.

In the last year, America has also greatly increased exports of coal, strengthening our economy and helping our allies lessen their dependence on imported oil. In 1981 exports from this country of coal reached 110 million tons. That's 20 percent more than the previous year. Coupled with our decreasing oil imports, this meant America's net dependence on foreign energy fell to less than 13 percent. It was nearly 25 percent in 1977.

Though quite small, our use of solar power is expanding. Many people across the country are experimenting with renewable technologies such as wind and geothermal power. The Synthetic Fuels Corporation has also become operational, managing loan guarantees and price supports for some important projects. But heavy reliance on these sources is still in the future. We still have to depend on practical sources available today, such as nuclear power, which now produces more of America's electricity than oil. The Clinch River reactor, which will use new breeder technology, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, not far from here, symbolize our commitment to developing safe nuclear energy and technology to secure our energy future.

Our Secretary of Energy, Jim Edwards, tells the story about the time in his home State of South Carolina he spotted a car bearing a bumper sticker, ``Split wood, not atoms.'' Well, he said he didn't think the fellow driving the car had ever split much wood -- especially not a one, enough for a typical family's needs -- because it isn't very easy. I can testify to that. But Jim said he wanted to tell him that America must split both atoms and wood. It'll take the use of many technologies to satisfy our future energy demands.

We're pursuing our goal of energy security while still respecting and protecting our environment. The staggering statistics of progress that I've recited today -- our growing independence from foreign oil and our increasing sophistication in using our reserves -- reflect American ingenuity at its best. This progress didn't come about as the result of some government program. It's the result of getting government out of the way.

We're applying the same philosophy to our economy: restoring incentive, rewarding risktaking and hard work, encouraging investment, and returning more freedom to the marketplace. An economic mess has been piling up for more than 40 years. Our economic recovery program began only 6 months ago, but already there are visible signs of success.

In the last 6 months, inflation, which was 12.4 percent, has been running at a rate of only 3.2 percent. And last month the Consumer Price Index -- the measure of inflation -- actually went down. For the first time in 17 years, not only did goods not get more expensive; they got cheaper. In the 6 months since our tax cut took effect, the rate of personal savings has increased. And we've seen recent gains in housing starts, auto sales, and retail sales.

Now, we still have a long way to go before our economy is back in shape. And this recession is causing great pain to too many of our people. But there was a thing called the misery index that was created in the 1976 Presidential campaign. It was used against the then incumbent President Ford. And the misery index had been created by adding the rate of inflation and unemployment. And at that time, they were something around 12 percent. And they were used over and over against, as I say, the President in that campaign. Well, in the 1980 campaign, they didn't mention the misery index, because it had risen to 20.8 percent. I'm happy to tell you the misery index is now currently 9.8 percent.

Still, there is pressure from many sides to retreat to business-as-usual. There are still those in leadership positions who would allow government to grow bigger and bigger. Many well-intentioned people suggest that we can't spend less and we must tax more. As the decisions become tougher and the stakes get higher, some people in Washington are throwing up their hands. Their only answer for our energy problems, for our economy, and for virtually any difficulty at all, is more government.

Well, we will continue to press for a bipartisan budget. But the only compromise offered so far has been: If our side agrees to raise taxes, the other side will continue to increase spending.

You know, trying to end the recession or eliminate the deficit by raising taxes is like the Big Orange trying to pull a football game out in the fourth quarter by punting on third down. No government in the history of civilization has ever voluntarily reduced itself in size. But with God's help, this one's going to.

Yes, we had the largest tax cut in history last year, but it barely offsets the massive, largest tax increase in history that had been passed in 1977. And yes, we cut the rate of growth in government spending -- nearly in half. But if we don't cut spending more and if we don't protect the people's tax cut, we'll see the largest deficit and the highest personal tax burden in American history.

I don't believe that you sent us to Washington to raise your taxes. And I don't think you sent us to Washington just to do what everyone did before us -- spend and spend and spend. We don't have a trillion-dollar debt because we don't tax enough; we have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.

We must balance the budget but history shows it can't be done simply by raising taxes. And for that reason, I've asked the Congress to pass as soon as possible a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. Then there will be no partisan pointing of fingers; there'll be no refusal to compromise; and there will no longer be any red ink below the bottom line of our budget.

Twenty years of tax-and-spend policies resulted in 21-percent interest rates, back-to-back years of double-digit inflation, and the unemployment rate that afflicts us today. Retreating to those tired old policies will only bring us more of the same. We plan to hold down spending, reduce taxes, and return prosperity. And we think that's the most compassionate program of help for the people that we can possibly produce.

I'm sure that patriots in every country believe that their nation holds the key to world progress. But I have long believed the United States of America and her people have a special destiny. Abraham Lincoln said, ``God would never cease to call America to her true service, not only for her sake, but for the sake of the world.'' I believe the challenge of this generation of Americans is to turn our country to a different path, to restore it to the principles that made it great, because the free world -- indeed, western civilization -- needs a strong United States.

The community of nations must work together to achieve stability, security, and peace. This exposition that we open today is another step toward achieving those goals.

You know, to those who have refused to take part, who are conspicuously absent, who continue to lock their people in misery through isolation and tyranny, we can say to them only: We wish you had come. But we'll make no effort to hide this wealth of ideas. We believe advances in the human condition can only come from open markets, free trading, and stiff competition. Men and nations who ignore those forces will be lost to time.

Let the rest of us draw from this exposition a sense of confidence and community. Let us realize that free men and women still have the power to better their lives and raise the standard of living for all mankind. Let us recognize that those things that bind us and keep us strong: our democratic political institutions, our market economic systems, our commitment to liberty, and our belief and faith in human dignity. And let us reaffirm our partnership among citizens, among States, and among nations.

What a partnership it was for this community to bring forth this great exposition. Maybe we should all recall that late in the last century, there was a great world exposition. And, at that time, there was a Member of our Congress who actually proposed a measure to eliminate the Patent Office, because he said that everything had been invented that needed to be invented or that could be invented. Well, I wouldn't be talking into a microphone today, if we'd gone along with that.

As we pool knowledge and resources here in Knoxville, our cooperation will become the keystone of a more peaceful and a stable world.

And now, I'm looking forward to seeing something of this exposition. Thank you all. Have a good time, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:33 p.m. in the Court of Flags on the World's Fair site.