from the Democratic-controlled 94th Congress, President Ford abandoned his early crusade to decontrol oil prices completely and curb the regulatory constraints the industry had been suffering for a long time.
The only significant step President Ford took without being hindered by the Congress was the imposition of, first, a $1-a-barrel and, then, a $2-a- barrel tariff on imported crude oil in order to decrease the demand for oil, which would also work as a conservation measure. But the tariff policy did not work. Foreign oil imports into the United States rose to record levels during 1977, according to an API report. Crude oil imports in the United States advanced from 5.28 m/b/d on average in 1976, to 6.54 m/b/d on average in 1977. 7 In the week of February 21, 1971, six years earlier, the United States had imported 3.69 m/b/d of crude. Obviously, President Ford's import tariff did not stem that tide. Sensing the futility of this action, President Ford at the end of January 1976 withdrew the $2-a-barrel import fee that he had imposed previously. Earlier, he had promised to remove the fee when he signed the energy bill on December 22, 1975.
Yet, all the measures for cutting down the demand for oil and incentives for increasing supplies were urgently needed. The signs were ominous that the worldwide petroleum demand was surging ahead after the two-year slump that had followed the 1973-1974 quadrupling of oil prices. With demand rising, OPEC's oil output started to climb. For 1976, OPEC's oil production was up more than 13 percent from the depressed level a year earlier. Production continued to climb over 31 m/b/d in 1977, even surpassing the average of 30.9 m/b/d reached by OPEC producers just before the 1973 Arab oil embargo. 8
President Ford seemed helpless against the tide of more dependence on OPEC oil. All his efforts to decrease the imports of oil by 1 m/b/d by 1975 and by 2 m/b/d by 1978 remained unfulfilled as did his cherished hope to lift all controls from oil and natural-gas prices. He chastised Congress as a "do-nothing" institution, ripped the pages of a calendar in front of public TV in order to prod the Congress to action, and barnstormed the country for an energy plan. No one can accuse President Ford of not trying. He was a victim of the time when the economy was recovering slowly and Congress was reluctant to stifle that growth. His gospel of free enterprise also did not endear him to the liberal Congressmen. His only solace could be that he hammered about the urgency of the issue so much that when Jimmy Carter came to the presidency in 1977, the new Congress was almost ready for a comprehensive energy plan, however different it might be from the one submitted by President Ford a few months earlier.