Energy Crisis Essay

2455 words - 10 pages

After World War II the energy consumption in the United States skyrocketed. The main causes of increased energy expenditure were infrastructure projects, including the Eisenhower Interstate System, and side effects of veterans returning home, including demand for new jobs (Tverberg). In the middle of 1973, before the embargo, the United States had low domestic reserves and had to import about 27 percent of the crude petroleum it needed every year. In other words, the United States was dependent on foreign oil imports from countries it had little control over and poor relations with (OPEC States). The Energy Crisis, that consisted of an oil embargo and price hikes, highlighted American ...view middle of the document...

To make things worse, OPEC announced that it would punish Israel’s allies through production cuts and subject enemies of the Arab cause to indefinite total embargo (OPEC States). In October of 1973, the United States attempted to secure its interests, both oil related and not oil related, by rearming the pro-Western Israeli government for the Yom Kippur War. In response, the pro-Arab OPEC with Egypt, Syria and Jordan declared an effective oil embargo on America (Super).
Because the United States had not been stockpiling oil like its European and East Asian counterparts, fear swept through the nation upon the embargo announcement. As anxious Americans rushed to fill their gas tanks, they faced two or three hour waits at gas stations. At one point during the embargo, the American Automobile Association recorded that nearly twenty percent of the country’s gas stations had no fuel for an entire week (Horton). The apparent scarcity of oil, coupled with the high demand for fuel, caused prices to skyrocket: the price of oil per barrel doubled and then subsequently quadrupled (Oil Embargo).
The panic and inflation that ensued after the embargo proved America was dependent on foreign oil imports. In an attempt to decrease foreign oil dependence, the Nixon administration launched Project Independence on November 7th, 1973 (Oil Embargo). In his November 25th address to the nation, Nixon promoted the plan by encouraging “all Americans [to] adopt certain energy conservation measures to help meet the challenge of reduced energy supplies.” This included cutting back on home heating, reducing driving speed, and eliminating the use of excess light. Additionally, he applauded the American people’s conservation efforts by declaring “the American people, all of you, you have responded to this challenge with that spirit of sacrifice which has made this such a great nation.” His assessment of American sacrifice was accurate: the total consumption of oil dropped twenty percent during the embargo (Horton).
Not everyone, however, agreed that the fearful energy conservation was necessary. In 1974, Reuel Shinnar from the Department of Chemical Engineering at City College, NY, argued that the United States “has enough fossil energy sources to sustain [its] present standard of living including the private car for the next few hundred years” (Shinnar). It is important to note that the fuel reserves on the eve of the embargo consisted of 52 billion barrels of oil, a ten year supply (OPEC States). Although a ten year supply would not sustain the private car for the next few hundred years, Shinnar continued his assessment of the so-called Energy Crisis by noting that the technology to use “alternative energy sources, such as nuclear, geothermal and solar energy” makes the problem of energy shortages “far less serious [to the United States] than for the rest of the world” (Shinnar).
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1973, noted ecologist Barry Commoner also...

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