Energy Crisis 1973—1985
The demand for energy within the United States and worldwide had been closing in on available supplies since the end of World War II. However, most Americans were unaware of a pending shortage, or that it was approaching crisis proportions, until an interruption in imports sent oil prices skyrocketing. The end of abundant cheap energy threatened to undermine a highly materialistic lifestyle based on large-volume, often wasteful, consumption of fossil fuels. A shortage of energy—especially oil— and its spiraling cost altered, at least in the short run, social as well as economic behavior and forced people to make what were often painful adjustments to a new reality of high-cost energy. For a time, the nation's resolve to regain energy self-sufficiency resulted in efforts to expand domestic production of coal, oil, and natural gas. Simultaneously, a variety of new technologies were explored as means of producing synthetic and alternative fuels.
What most people called an “energy crisis” seemed to suddenly materialize in October 1973, when representatives of Arab oil-producing nations, meeting in Kuwait, announced a sharp increase in the price of crude and a reduction of 5 percent a month in the export of oil until Israel, then caught up in the Yom Kippur War, withdrew from all territory taken from its Arab neighbors. This announcement was quickly superseded by a total