Any significant shortages that this Nation will face during the next quarter century — and probably for generations thereafter — will not be caused by finite limits on the quantity of resources within the earth's crusts or by our slowly growing dependence on overseas mineral sources but by short-run shocks that produce shifts in demand or supply large and abrupt enough to exceed the immediate adjustment capabilities of the materials-producing and materials using industries. While certain of these abrupt shifts lie outside human control, a surprisingly high proportion of them are likely to be related either directly or indirectly to the actions of governments our own included. Government policies have come to exert a major if not a dominant influence over key industry decisions at each stage of the materials cycle. It is critical that the Government take steps to improve its understanding of how its policies impact on industry so its influence policies impact on industry so its influence can be exerted in a constructive rather than a disruptive manner. The recommendations made by the National Commission on Supplies and Shortages are designed to help bring about such an improvement
There is a well known story about how to tell an optimist from a pessimist. Take a quart jar and put a pint of water into it. When shown this combination, the pessimist will remark, "Too bad, it's half pessimist will remark, "Too bad, it's half empty." The optimist will say, "oh good, it's half full."
Press coverage relating to our Commission's report has generally put us into the "oh good, it's half full" category. "World Resources Will Last, U.S. Panel Says," was the page l headline in the Los Angeles Times the day our report was released. "Resources Aren't Running Out, Report Says," was the headline on the January 16 Detroit News story describing our report.
I don't like to be the one responsible for throwing water on this sense of euphoria, but I do think it is important to put our findings and recommendations into proper perspective. This is what I hope to do today.
The National Commission on Supplies and Shortages was created in the wake of the first widespread period of commodity shortages since the Korean War.