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Jimmy Carter's 'Malaise Speech' of July 15, 1979: An Energy Moment to Remember

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- July 15, 2011

[Editor Note: Carter’s April 1977 energy speech was also reproduced and commented upon at MasterResource.]

Thirty-two years ago today, President Carter and his energy advisor James Schlesinger got it all wrong in an emergency television address to the nation. Their neo-Malthusian, government-as-engineer moment should never be forgotten but stand as timeless warning about the anti-market, anti-energy mentality.

In the summer of 1979, many Americans were stuck in the gasoline lines. There was a lot of lost time and nervousness. There was fighting and worse. The market as a buffer of civility was gone. Americans were not used to such a predicament and had the common sense to know that something was very abnormal and not to be tolerated. They were mad.

Here is the background of his energy speech, considered as the most important speech of his presidency:

On June 30, 1979, a weary Jimmy Carter was looking forward to a few days’ vacation in Hawaii, as Air Force One sped him away from a grueling economic summit in Tokyo.