Nixon's Energy Policy

Richard Nixon was President of the United States during the Energy Crisis of 1973, when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) instituted an embargo and stopped exporting oil to the US.

He responded by initiating "Project Independence," which aimed for the US to meet its own energy needs "without depending on any foreign energy sources" by 1980. 

Federal investments in energy R&D "more than doubled in real terms in the short interval between 1973-1976" (link; pdf).  During the Nixon administration, nearly all of that investment went to fossil fuel and nuclear energy.  Of the $2.45 billion spent on energy R&D in 1974, $32 million (2.5%) went to solar, geothermal and energy conservation programs.  This small proportion increased later, under President Carter.  Nevertheless, the 1970s boom in solar energy development and solar houses (which I explain in Chapter 11 of The Solar House) began without much federal help.

It is also important to remember that Nixon told Americans, in November 1973:
"it will be essential for all of us to live and work in lower temperatures. We must ask everyone to lower the thermostat in your home by at least 6 degrees..." (link
President Carter often gets lampooned for asking the same thing in 1977 (and Lloyd Alter correctly defends him.)

Did Project Independence work?  Here's a graph which gives the answer:

Put another way: "By the time Jimmy Carter took over as president in 1977, oil imports had increased by 370 percent from Nixon’s first year in office." (link)

President Nixon also signed the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-159).