“We must face up to a very stark fact: We are heading toward the most acute shortages of energy since World War II.

– Richard Nixon: November 7, 1973

The 1970s Oil Crisis: A Shocking Revelation of the United State’s Independence on Foreign Oil

Executive Summary

In today’s world, it is easy to take for granted the mobility and independence that our automobiles provide us to travel to any location at any our own convenience. Whether it is embarking on a road trip, running necessary errands, or simply taking a leisurely drive, cars are indispensable tools—a means we rely on to maintain our daily lives. However, if we were to go back in time to the 1970s, this free accessibility to vehicular transport was threatened, inhibited, or in the worst of circumstances, not even possible. During this era, the American belief that gas would always be readily available was shattered. Fueling this spread of panic was the 1970s oil crisis.

Petroleum was often unavailable at gas stations during the crisis.

Petroleum was often unavailable at gas stations during the crisis.

In the years leading up to the 1970s, America seemed to assume that their oil supply from the Middle East would never cease. They were confident that the Middle Eastern suppliers were just as dependent on oil revenues as the United States was on their oil.  However, this conviction proved false when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) declared an embargo on oil that applied to any nation, such as the United States, that supported Israel in the Yon Kipper War. The embargo caused gas prices to soar, supplies to dwindle, and in the worst cases, cease to exist altogether. The critical shortage of such a crucial and dependable resource affected all aspects of American life during the 1970s.

People would often wait in huge lines for the chance to fill their tanks.

People would often wait in huge lines for the chance to fill their tanks.

Our group has decided to study this transformative event because it shaped American lives in the 1970s as society moved from a post-World War II economic boom into a serious economic recession relatively swiftly. Also, it complements other areas of study, particularly the reciprocal relationships between citizens and government and the foreign relationships with the Middle East.  Energy policy and the petroleum trade continue to be pertinent issues in both domestic and foreign policy today.  Desires for energy alternatives, shifts away from foreign reliance, and maintenance of peaceful relations with the Middle East are all frequent topics of debate in recent elections whose roots can be traced back to this decade when the energy crisis was first felt by the public at large.. Through videos, such as Mad Max, presidential speeches, like Carter’s “A Crisis of Confidence,” newspaper articles, and other sources of media, our group plans to delve into this oil crisis of the 1970s and explore the way in which the newly realized dependence on petroleum and the countries that supply it impacted the lives of individual Americans as well as American society and political policy in general.

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