Beyond the Energy Crisis
The drive for national energy self-sufficiency faltered and was abandoned in the 1980s. After having supported a wide range of initiatives in the 1970s, politicians adopted the view that public programs stifled, rather than encouraged, energy production. Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan campaigned in 1980 on a promise to dismantle much of the federal bureaucracy, including the Department of Energy and the energy- related central planning agencies that had been created with the blessings of Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter.
The new administration hoped to bow out of energy programs, leaving to the private sector and a free-market economy the task of seeking a proper balance between consumption and production. After some equivocation, Reagan endorsed one exception by continuing his predecessor's policy of stockpiling oil in a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Advocates of Reaganomics predicted that higher prices would stimulate the output of energy resources, and at the same time encourage conservation in their use. Furthermore, private programs, unlike their public counterparts, would not expand the federal bureaucracy or enlarge the national debt.
In spite of reduced government activities, there were no long-term advances in domestic oil production. Consumption of energy, particularly petroleum, after declining for a time, increased as the price of foreign oil 188