50 years after the oil embargo crisis of 1973, no American policy for energy independence

America continues to increase its energy dependence on China for “green”, and on OPEC and Russia for oil.

Published April 21, 2023 at Heartland https://heartland.org/opinion/50-years-after-the-oil-embargo-crisis-of-1973-no-american-policy-for-energy-independence/

Ronald Stein  is an engineer, senior policy advisor on energy literacy for the Heartland Institute and CFACT, and co-author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated book “Clean Energy Exploitations.”

The oil embargo of 1973 imposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other Arab oil-producing nations was imposed in response to the United States’ support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.

The embargo led to a sharp increase in oil prices and a shortage of fuels for the military, airlines, ships, and vehicles in the United States and other countries, as well as a shortage of products from oil.

Few may remember the long lines at gas stations which were one of the most visible effects of the oil embargo. In some cases, people waited for hours to fill up their tanks. The shortage of oil also led to price increases, and many people were forced to make sacrifices to conserve fuel.

The oil embargo of 1973 was a major event in the history of the United States.  It led to a recession in the United States and other countries. It also led to thoughts of a needed energy policy in the United States. The United States began to develop alternative sources for oil and for electricity, such as solar and wind power.

President Richard Nixon played a key role in the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which carries oil from Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope to the port of Valdez. Nixon signed the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act into law in 1973, and he worked to overcome environmental and political opposition to the project. The pipeline began operating in 1977 and has since transported more than 15 billion barrels of oil.

President Richard Nixon gave a speech on America’s energy policy on November 7, 1973, in which he outlined his plans to reduce national energy consumption and called on U.S. citizens to follow his lead in achieving energy independence. In his speech, Nixon acknowledged that the United States was facing an oil crisis for the American economy’s demands for fuels, and the products that are based on crude oil, and he blamed the crisis on several factors, including the Arab oil embargo, the growth of the U.S. economy, and the country’s continued reliance on foreign oil.

Now, 50 years later, none of the administrations that followed Nixon have done anything to establish a policy for America’s energy independence from another embargo disaster. We’re talking about a 50-year span of administrations from Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush, Jr., Obama, Trump, and now Biden.

As World War I and II historians Russia, China, and OPEC know, the country that controls the minerals, crude oil, and natural gas, controls the world!  They all know there is no substitute for fossil fuel product dominance in the foreseeable future, even on a longer-term horizon. To believe a transition to just electricity from renewables is possible from the products manufactured from fossil fuels and act accordingly is suicidal for humanity. As former Congressman Don Ritter of Pennsylvania wrote  It’s the real “existential threat.

Today, President Biden and California Governor Newsom remain oblivious to the fact that wind and solar only generate electricity. Neither Biden or Newsom can identify one product that wind and solar can manufacture for mankind. And worse, neither has a backup plan to replace all the products and fuels that are based on oil!

Biden is campaigning to rid America of oil, and Newsom, by continually decreasing California’s in-state oil production, Newsom’s personal energy policies continue to force California, the 4th largest economy in the world, to be the only state in contiguous America that imports most of its crude oil energy from foreign countries. That dependence, via maritime transportation from foreign nations for the state’s crude oil energy demands, has increased imported crude oil from 5 percent in 1992 to almost 60 percent today of total consumption. California’s growing dependency on other nations, like Saudi Aramco is a serious national security risk for America.

Today, both Biden and Newsom campaign to go green with EV’s, and wind and solar for electricity generation. Through the encouragement of tax incentives and subsidies to go green, they are providing financial incentives to China, who already controls the supply chain for the minerals and metals to go green, furthering our total dependence on China to achieve the green goals of America.

In the 1970s, Nixon also took steps to increase domestic energy production. He opened more federal lands to oil and gas drilling, and he encouraged the development of new sources for electricity, such as solar and nuclear power. He also created the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), which was responsible for researching and developing new energy technologies.

Nixon’s energy policies were not without their critics. Some argued that his policies were too focused on conservation and not enough on production. Others argued that his policies were too expensive and that they would harm the economy. However, Nixon’s energy policies were generally successful in helping the United States to weather the energy crisis of the 1970s.

Here is a list of some of President Nixon’s energy successes in the 1970s:

  • Opening more federal lands to oil and gas drilling
  • Created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970
  • Created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1970
  • Created the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1970
  • Created the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 1972
  • Signing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act into law in 1973
  • Creating the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) in 1974
  • Passage of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975

Those 1970s agencies were created in response to several challenges facing the United States at the time, including environmental pollution, occupational safety and health hazards, and consumer product safety. The creation of those agencies helped to improve the quality of life for Americans and to protect the environment.

Today, America is offering tax incentives and subsidies to go green at any cost, and implementing policies to rid the country of oil with no backup plan for a supply chain of products from oil that are the basis of the economy. Instead of achieving energy independence, America continues to increase its dependence on China for “green”, and Russia and OPEC for oil products demanded by our economy.

With no policy for energy independence, God help America!

Ronald Stein, P.E.

Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure


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Tom Halla
April 22, 2023 2:14 pm

What Nixon failed to do was remove price controls on domestic oil and gas. The production limits, although administered by such entities as the Texas Railroad Commission, were originally intended as protectionism against foreign oil imports.
Nixon’s grasp of economics was somewhere with his understanding of civil liberties..

April 22, 2023 2:24 pm

How close was the US to Net Energy Exporter in 2019? IIRC the claim at the time is that we had reached/were about to reach that status, thanks mainly to fracking.

April 22, 2023 2:34 pm

“The United States began to develop alternative sources for oil and for electricity, such as solar and wind power.”
Other than a few novel “toy” demonstration wind and solar units, the U.S. did not seriously begin developing wind and solar until the climateering wackos began to take over policy. Sure enough, today, 50 years later, wind and solar have largely failed to deliver, just as one would have predicted. In the interim, anti-nuclear activists essentially shut down the then-rapid deployment of nuclear power. Prior to Three Mile Island (a nothing-burger) and Chernobyl (a typical communist Soviet disaster), the growth rate of nuclear plus continuing improving efficiency and output per plant had the the U.S. on track to 50% nuclear by the year 2000. Activism shut it down.

Had the growth rate continued, our national greenhouse gas emissions (as if we care), even accounting for population growth, would today be at 1970s levels. Thus, I say that environmental activists are themselves largely responsible for today’s U.S. emissions. It is they who truly hate the environment. Also, since population growth is highly correlated with emissions growth, the open-borders Dumbocrats are incentivizing continued emissions growth. Liars and idiots. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

If you doubt this, go dig out the data and run the calculations yourself. I did that already, about 15 years ago. Wind, solar, biofuels — niche applications incapable of powering a modern civilization.

Dr. Bob
April 22, 2023 2:39 pm

The current administration’s policy is for total energy dependence. Wind and Solar are dependent on mining and fabrication in China and other countries not friendly to US interests. But we pursue dependence on wind and solar as the only growth in power production. Yet they fail in all aspects as a source of energy for industry and transportation.
We need new leadership or our economy will fail due to unreliable grid power.

April 22, 2023 2:47 pm

Mr. Stein, as for your list of presidents, Trump is the exception. He had us beginning the path to recovery, but the deep state and its allies undercut him at every turn, then conducted an illigitimate election (with the aid of conveniently-timed Chinese biowarfare and Antifa-BLM riots) to unseat him, followed by immediate reversal of his policies and regulatory reforms. Traitors all, many of whom deserve to be tried, convicted and hanged for their treachery.

Anyhow, governments, especially the federal government, are incapable of creating an “energy policy.” Career bureaucrats in the DOE and EPA are interested in only their own power, prestige and continued government careers.

Get government out of the way, and private enterprise is capable of delivering the needed energy (and efficiencies) without intervention. Eliminate all government incentives for so-called “green” technologies. If a technology is fit and ready for market, it will stand on its own. If not, relegate it to the dustbin of history.

Nick Stokes
April 22, 2023 3:11 pm

“Instead of achieving energy independence, America continues to increase its dependence on China for “green”, and Russia and OPEC for oil products demanded by our economy.”

Not many facts here. And this is all wrong. Here is a plot (EIA, my red) of US oil import/export since 1950. The brown curve is net imports. It peaked in 2005, and has since rapidly descended to below zero. That is, America is now on the verge of being a net exporter.

comment image

Last edited 1 month ago by Nick Stokes
Reply to  Nick Stokes
April 22, 2023 5:32 pm

I note the rather dramatic change in direction in the red box in your chart, starting at Joe Biden’s election. IOW, “America is now on the verge of being a net exporter” is a pre-Biden feature. There is no question that Joe Biden and Gavin Newsom have been working hard to cut the USA’s fossil fuel production and increase dependence on others. That the USA’s oil and gas producers have managed to keep increasing production is a credit to them and they have been the salvation of America. But the Biden/Newsom headwinds can’t be defended against for ever. At some point, the pressure will be insurmountable and the USA will then be stuffed (as in defenceless against Xi Jinping and the CCP).

And the increasing “dependence on China for “green”” is correct.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Mike Jonas
April 22, 2023 5:44 pm

the rather dramatic change in direction in the red box in your chart”

The small uptick is a result of a larger uptick in consumption, following the plague year of 2020.

Production and export increased greatly during the Obama/Biden years.

Exports have continued strongly recently. July 2022 was an all time record.

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Reply to  Nick Stokes
April 22, 2023 6:52 pm

In other words, we’ve been exporting away our Stragic Petroleum Reserve and, if we even ever replenish it, it will be at price levels that are likely going to be higher than what we have at the present. Buying high and selling low is something even an economist’s toddler knows is bad. Also, we’ve had to make up some shortfalls abroad after Russia got sanctioned in the West.

Last edited 1 month ago by johnesm
Nick Stokes
Reply to  johnesm
April 22, 2023 11:49 pm

In other words, we’ve been exporting away our Stragic Petroleum Reserve”
The drawdown of the SPR is about 200 M barrels. US exports are at least 3000 M barrels a year.

April 22, 2023 3:11 pm

Ronald Stein may know a lot about energy engineering, but he is very confused about the history of energy policy in the US. The idea that the acme of policy was during Nixon’s administration is absurd. The embargo did not cause gas lines in the US, government policies did. Nixon instituted price controls on oil, which as anyone who has had ECON 101 knows, are a guaranteed way to create a shortage. Moreover, the response to the gas lines was to institute quantity controls—making complete central planning of US oil policy—central planning that worked as well in the USA as it did in the USSR. As for energy independence it was never clearly defined. In fact, Nixon seemed to mean something different when he called for energy independence in April 1974 than he had in January of the same year. Anyone—including Mr. Stein—who wants to know about the history of US energy policy should read my 2013 book, U.S. Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure (Cambridge University Press). You’ll learn that Biden’s nonsensical energy policies while worse than those of his predecessors, is merely the apotheosis of bad energy policies that have existed in the US for decades, and especially in the 1970s.

lyn roberts
April 22, 2023 3:59 pm

Same here in Australia as I understand it we have about 30 days of fuel without those oiltankers bringing in our diesel, petrol etc.
China may want to bring the western world down when they attack Taiwan, all they have to do is bomb multiple oil refineries and we would all be stuffed.
No trucks to transport food to the supermarket, wonder if the pollies have thought about the possibility of no food in the supermarkets and what would happen to them then.

Kit P
Reply to  lyn roberts
April 22, 2023 7:48 pm

You do know China imports coal from Australia?

China imports large amounts of food and energy. If China bombs anyone, no ships will supply China with anything. Without exports China has no economy.

Let me ask you another question, have you ever tried to eat a solar panel?

Ron Stein is an idiot. We may be dependent on China for green energy, but no one is dependent on green energy. China is dependent on the US Navy and American farmers.

Oriel Kolnai
Reply to  Kit P
April 23, 2023 2:30 am

Perhaps. But its dependence on Aus coal may be coming to an end as it constructs huge coal trains to supply Beijing in order to end wood fuel pollution.
Wood fuel is subsidised here in France as ‘clean’ (!).
You can’t make this stuff up.


April 22, 2023 4:09 pm

China owns Joeseph Robinette Biden. Period. Full stop. China did not own his father.

Paul Hurley
April 22, 2023 4:19 pm

The Experts say there is no need for oil, so what’s the problem?


Mr Ed
April 22, 2023 6:09 pm

The current situation is so radical it defies explanation. Depleting the SPR while
stopping domestic production while pushing wind//solar while staffing the Sec of Energy
with a ideologue that has no background in energy who rants about “climate change”.
Our energy policy is very obvious…at least to me..the greens are running the show.

I was in the Persian Gulf after the Yom Kippur war and saw first hand that situation around GONZO station.

Nick Stokes
Reply to  Mr Ed
April 23, 2023 1:21 am

while stopping domestic production”

Hard to see

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John Oliver
Reply to  Nick Stokes
April 23, 2023 6:27 am

Nick’s position is always that everything is just fine because he can nit pick someone’s historical statistical analysis. It doesn’t change the fact that we have governments trying as hard as they can to destroy the fossil fuel industry- enjoy your “technical” victories while they last.

Mr Ed
Reply to  Nick Stokes
April 23, 2023 7:11 am

Look at the halt of new permits off shore. I have some money invested
in energy and follow closely the MARAD permitting trend. The trend I see is
a halt in US permits. The permit itself is some 30 inches thick and has over
90 items. Take a hard look at the number of no new permits and then look
at how mexico is opening up offshore drilling at the present. Your comments
are out of context. A halt in a permit is done by an unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat at whatever whim.

Reply to  Mr Ed
April 23, 2023 1:05 pm

Any US producers willing to go in with PEMEX and the government entities who have their hand up it’s dress are too dumb to date. They will end up with their investments effectively stranded, a la Talos Energy..

The US is the best game in the western hemisphere. Especially when you consider our (still) relatively stable, laissez faire track record.

Mr Ed
Reply to  bigoilbob
April 23, 2023 1:39 pm

As I understand it Mexico imports most of it’s natural
gas from the US. I saw an energy article that a US company was
under contract for an offshore natural gas project in Altamira
later this year. Is that a high risk venture?

Reply to  Mr Ed
April 23, 2023 1:47 pm

Based on the current level of PEMEX/government crawfishing, you betcha. I don’t follow New Fortress Energy, but they have lost about half of their market cap since announcing this.


Last edited 1 month ago by bigoilbob
Mr Ed
Reply to  bigoilbob
April 23, 2023 1:56 pm

They bought a old fleet of lng tankers for $5B a couple
of years ago which raised some eyebrows. They also had
a large amount of lng contracts to go with that. I say
they might know things given how much money they made
last year in Europe.

Reply to  Mr Ed
April 23, 2023 2:05 pm

Ok….. So the loss of ~half of their market cap concurrent with this deal announcement is merely coincident?

Last edited 1 month ago by bigoilbob
Mr Ed
Reply to  bigoilbob
April 23, 2023 2:20 pm

The CEO announced a huge cash dividend which set off the
PPS crash. 40% of the annual EBIDA. Look at the short
interest after that announcement. They paid over a buck
early ’23 and will pay again 2qt. Short holders have to pay
that divi…look at the lng contracts they hold in the EU..

Last edited 1 month ago by Mr Ed
April 22, 2023 11:40 pm

We’ve got a coherent plan for energy independence, its not even 3 pages, its 3 words:

Drill, baby, drill.

That will work even with states like NY, with 9 TRILLION of of gas reserves sitting out and California banning any new wells or offshore exploration and production.

Another step to independence would be to ban imports, cutting them back by 10% a year, if there is sufficient domestic production to make up the difference.

Now I am free trader but banning imports would be an important step forward for free trade, because states like NY and CA would have to start allowing domestic pipelines otherwise CA runs out of gasoline and MA and the rest of NE run out of natural gas.

Last edited 1 month ago by kazinski
April 23, 2023 2:11 am

In 50 years we went from fear of running out of oil and fossil fuels we need to fear of NOT running out of oil and fossil fuels we use.

April 23, 2023 6:45 am

It gets even better: 60% of the “oil” produced in the United States is fracked oil. This is fine for gasoline, but it is not usable for making diesel.
This is one of the reasons why diesel prices spiked longer than gasoline last year – and it seems likely the imbalance will only grow.

general custer
April 23, 2023 8:53 am

Nixon’s creation of new federal agencies, if indeed he was the creator, wasn’t a positive in even the short term. The management of these agencies is a vast secretarial pool that provides employment to drone political cadres that can’t find temporary places in academia. Since the majority of these parasites are attorneys, the regulatory functions of agencies become more and more complex and constitute a tax on all levels of business activity, especially small business, who can’t afford the resources needed to climb into bed with big government. Unelected, unknown bureaucrats draw up complicated bills that neither the legislature nor the citizenry reads or analyzes until it’s too late. Elected officials are too busy campaigning to retain their position to be bothered with the nuts and bolts of government so important decisions are left to the anonymous, who can’t even be fired. Such is how a giant “democracy” functions, if that’s the correct verb for this travesty.

April 23, 2023 3:03 pm

We don’t need a federal energy policy. We need to get the government out of the energy business. Everything the government touches turns to shit. Energy production needs to be left to the people who actually know how to do it. You know, energy producers.

Reply to  Bob
April 24, 2023 4:41 pm

We don’t need a federal energy policy.
We need to get the government out of the energy business.

April 25, 2023 9:37 am

OPEC is to blame in 1973 due to embargo in response to US support of Israel during he Yom Kipper war. This is what trigger the big jump in gas prices that lead to shortages in part because of Nixon price ceilings, (gigantic inflation problem due to Vietnam-Cold war spending, the social welfare acts and poor worker productivity).

Everyone lied…. while US oil companies were raking in a windfall mint off OPEC shortfall supply maneuver, they unleased a propaganda campaign on America….. Fear mongering…. Oil will run out in 20 years! People instantly sold their lovely Large American Automobiles. It was a great time to buy a Cadillac or big Bonneville…and big Bentley’s LOL. American’s bought crappy tiny Japanese cars. Self righteous actions even impacted the architecture …. notice how ugly 1970 and 1980’s buildings are with their nasty little windows.

We all turned our thermostats from 78 to 68…. and the most environmentally self righteous turned them down to 58

The dynamic is no different now……. The US energy/oil campiness have made a windfall mint in the past 18 months.

The oil market is a global market and it is totally colluded both directly via OPEC and de-facto per algorithm market control. Big energy is not going to buck the global collusion unless it is forced to.

Oil prices dropped to record lows 1990 due to Bush’s alignment with the Saudi King to protect Mecca from the Shiites in Iraq and Iran. Obviously, turning the holy land into a US military base didn’t sit well with our old and now former Mujahideen friends; further radicalized by the mid 1990’s.

So unless the US government develops some plan to sequester or partition US NG/CNG/LNG oil/gasoline supply and maintain market under price controls for a US only energy market forget about energy independence.

The Libertarians will not take aggressive actions to partition the US energy market and the Liberals will do noything in lower the prices of energy in America.

the other thing is to trust bust the crap out of the US energy market and totally deregulate it so anyone can find, dig, produce and sell energy where ever and how every they want.

Reply to  JC
April 25, 2023 12:50 pm

It’s a done deal, no one is going to trust bust American Big Energy, or deregulate it, or partition the American energy market But if you can get AI deep learning to figure out a way to unsettle IOPEC regarding the American energy market and it’s demand for oil. then nothing has to change. AI ruses can influence the supply side of he OPEC cartel decision making and lower energy costs.. Alll the oil supply decisions take the OPEC lead.. And isn’t that the way stuff is done these days anyway? We don’t need a government to act when we have a fluid sideways government out there stemming the tide, diverting streams of logic good sense and +/- information.

April 27, 2023 1:43 pm

It is interesting to note that Nixon’s War on Drugs and the U.S. D.O.E. (Originated by Carter, a Naval Academy Nuclear graduate) have not only both been expensive failures, but our energy security and the drug crisis are both in worse shape than when the programs began.
After the Saudis tried to punish us for not supporting them in the Yom Kippur War, oil prices gradually went back to $7 a bbl. by 1997, prompting the termination of the DOE Aquatic Species Program. I am still not convinced that when oil tinkered with $100/bbl and above, Biodiesel from Algae might not have been economically possible.
Much better to spend the money wasted on Ethanol (as a poor fuel) on paying the hoards of southern border invaders to farm Algae.

Last edited 1 month ago by enginer01
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