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Chancellor Helmut Schmidt Outlines His Program for Combating the Second Energy Crisis (July 2, 1979)

On the return flight from an economic summit in Tokyo, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt shared his ideas for combating the renewed increase in oil prices with a journalist. He indicated that his priorities were saving energy and developing alternative energy sources to reassure citizens that prosperity would continue.

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Giving Priority to Saving Oil and New Technologies

Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is convinced that it won’t be long before the G7 summit in Tokyo is viewed as a “world economic caesura” of perhaps the same economic-historical significance as the so-called oil crisis of late 1973. This is what he said in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung editorial staff member Franz Thoma on his flight back from Tokyo. The limit on oil imports and the declared intention to develop new technologies for renewable energy were the most important decisions made at the summit.

The major industrial countries, which together account for more than half the world’s GNP, want to free themselves, according to “their declared will,” from their almost helpless dependence on the volume and price dictates of the international cartel of oil producers and become more independent. “Our country consciously participated in these decisions and throughout the months of preparation,” Schmidt emphasized. In response to a question about the longer term effects of these summit decisions on German energy policies (the subject of a policy statement that the chancellor will give on Wednesday in the Bundestag) and on daily life, Schmidt offered a concrete example and explained that in a few years’ time very few people would be able to afford a car with high gasoline consumption.

The Car of the Day after Tomorrow

More and more people will switch to cars with low gasoline consumption. “The auto industry will have to adapt to that.” The chancellor said that he would live to see the day when battery-driven cars increasingly replace gasoline-fuelled ones. He also believes that hydrogen-powered motors will be developed within the next decades. According to Schmidt, the federal government’s energy program of 1973, with its first and second continuation, had set the right course in any case by moving toward saving energy, substituting oil with coal, and meeting the remaining demand with nuclear energy. The government will stick to that. And other industrial countries will adopt this course as part of a common strategy in the medium term. As Schmidt explained, the German suggestions met with widespread acceptance in Tokyo and were incorporated into the concluding declaration.

Accelerated Rate of Development

The federal government will now push for the sustained and rapid development of new technologies, above all for coal gasification and the use of solar energy and geothermics, also so that nuclear energy can be dispensed with in the future. “These basic guidelines must be implemented more quickly.” According to Schmidt, the Bundestag, the federal government, industry, and the unions will have to work together on this. “But above all, our citizens will also need to be convinced of the inevitable necessity of this.” (The leader of the government is evidently thinking of greatly increasing the financial resources designated for the development of these technologies.)

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