What Was The 1973 Oil Crisis, and What Legacy Has It Left?
Current generations know that oil is a precious, finite resource. The price at the pump has always been high, and there has always been a worry that, one day, they'll wake up without the ability to fill their tanks. That's just the nature of the world they grew up in. Older generations, though, remember when oil was so plentiful that gas mileage was never a concern when it came to manufacturing, or buying, cars. All it took was pocket change to fill the tank, and gas was so cheap that cruising around aimlessly was a legitimate form of entertainment.
So what changed? A lot of things, but they're all encapsulated in the moment that was the 1973 oil crisis.
It all started during the Texas oil boom. That discovery led to oil being adopted as a primary fuel source in the United States, and petroleum products grew more common on the market. Over the decades between the turn of the century, and the start of the 1970s, American oil production slowed, but demand increased. Policy from Washington told the public there was no reason to change they way they lived their lives. After all, it was cheaper to buy and import oil from abroad, and there was no way that Arab oil-producing countries would risk their relationships with such a wealthy, and powerful nation.
That was, of course, a huge miscalculation on the part of America. The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries also called OAPEC, decided to leverage their collective power by cutting off supplies of oil. This led to massive shortages across the United States, which caused huge disruptions on both a national, and personal, level. People's lives were changed overnight, as something they'd taken for granted vanished into thin air.
Why did they do this? Well, because during World War II, the Allies carved out the state of Israel as a place for all the disenfranchised Jews. This was over the objections of those in the region, and it led to huge problems in the Middle East that we're still seeing today. The oil embargo against the U.S. began because they supported Israel in conflicts the nation got embroiled in against the oil-producing countries, but the embargo lasted well into 1974.
The Legacy of The Oil Crisis
The 1973 oil crisis was a hard wake-up call that the age of cheap oil was over. It changed the political landscape, showing that nations with natural resources like petroleum could put the squeeze on larger, more powerful countries. It led to huge changes in the American automotive market since bigger and less fuel-efficient was no longer an option. American companies swiftly lost ground to Japanese automakers, whose vehicles were smaller, lighter, and used less gas. Environmentalism reached previously unseen levels, daylight savings time was embraced year-round, and the speed limit became the standard across all roads.
There were other legacies of this oil crisis, though. The need for a better source of energy, and for less reliance on foreign oil, has steadily made its way into the U.S.'s national policy. Alternative energies, transportation, and technologies have all grown out of the frustration, fear, and desire to never again see the kind of damage that was done in the year 1973. Because, while we may not yet live in a world that's completely green, the past 40 years have seen some huge revolutions in the way we harness our energy. Revolutions that would not have happened if the status quo had blithely continued on and no one had been given the wake-up call that oil was both a finite, and a localized, resource to gamble your future on.