By the early 1970s, American consumption of natural resources, such as gasoline and oil products was rising, even as oil production in America was declining, which led to an increased dependency on imported resources.
Despite this, Americans didn’t worry about the increase in demand or a spike in prices, and were reassured by the government, who believed that Arab oil companies couldn’t afford to lose the United States as a market. This belief was destroyed in 1973, when an oil embargo from the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) led to gasoline and oil shortages and increased prices throughout the 70s. This event was later dubbed the 1970s energy crisis.
The cause of the embargo, and subsequently the energy crisis in America can be traced to as far back as the end of World War II. In 1948, the Allied powers had established land out of Palestine as the state of Israel in order to serve as a homeland for displaced Jews from around the world. Much of the Arab inhabitants in the surrounding areas refused to recognize Israel as a state, however, and over the next few decades infrequent attacks erupted into conflict. The Yom Kippur War began in October 1973, when Syria and Egypt attacked Israel on the day of Yom Kippur, a Jewish Holy Day. When the Soviet Union began supplying weapons to Syria and Egypt, the United States responded by supplying Israel with weapons as well. In response, members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) proclaimed an embargo on oil exports to the United States.
In the months after the embargo was announced, the price per barrel of oil had quadrupled. After decades of an abundant supply of fuel, Americans now faced shortages. The American government urged the population to conserve energy when possible, even going as far as to ask gas stations around the country to close on sundays. With a shortage of gasoline, domestic automotive companies faced huge blows, Americans were opting for more fuel efficient japanese manufactured vehicles.
During this time, environmentalism had become a hot topic, and with it came many promises from politicians. Many bills were passed during the 1970s in order to change America’s dependency on fossil fuels. The Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act, which was passed by Congress in November 1973, during the energy crisis, to the Conservation Act of 1975 and the Energy Policy. All of which lead to the formation of the Department of Energy in 1977.
Efforts were made to increase domestic oil production as well as to reduce American dependence on fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and nuclear power were heavily researched and implemented throughout the decade. However, in 1978 when the oil market crashed, Americans began using imported fossil fuels once again, and many of the resources allocated for renewable energy sources were put towards other endeavors.