Like an instant deja vu

Publish date 07-03-2023

by Renato Bonomo

In October 1973, Egypt attacked Sinai which had been occupied by the State of Israel in 1967. It was the Yom Kippur War. The Israeli counter-offensive led to the closure of the Suez Canal and the decision of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Producing Countries, to quadruple the prices of black gold in retaliation against the West which had supported Israel. This caused an unprecedented energy crisis for the United States and its allies which entered into an already delicate economic and monetary situation, thus starting a period of stagflation (slowdown in production and concomitant inflation).

President Nixon, in a major speech on November 7, 1973, about a year before his resignation, announced to the nation his plan for dealing with a crisis unprecedented for Americans.
“Tonight I want to talk to you about a very serious national problem, one that we must all face together in the months and years to come. In recent years America has grown and prospered to the point that our energy needs have begun to outstrip available supplies. In recent months we have taken many initiatives to increase inventories and reduce consumption. […] Unfortunately, the picture of the situation that we expected for next winter has been profoundly altered by the recent conflict in the Middle East. […] At the end of this month, the more than two million barrels of oil per day that we expected to import into the United States will no longer be available. We must therefore face an extremely serious fact: we are heading towards the most serious energy crisis since the Second World War. […] In the short term, this new arrangement means that we have to use less energy – which means less heating, less electricity, less petrol. In the long run, it means that we need to develop new sources of energy that will enable us to meet our needs without having to depend on any foreign country. In the immediate future, the crisis will have consequences for all of our lives. In our factories, in our cars, in our homes, in our offices, we should be using less fuel than we used to. […] We need to make sure that our most vital needs are the first to be protected – and that our least important activities are the first to be curtailed».

Nixon then began to list in order the measures to be implemented. First, the return to coal which had been gradually replaced by oil. Then a plan of "reductions of about 15% on the availability of oil for heating homes, offices and other buildings". The concept was expressly reaffirmed that energy stocks would be sufficient for the whole winter only if everyone lived and worked in less heated environments. The other way forward was to find alternative energy sources with high potential: «I ask the Atomic Energy Commission to speed up the procedures for the authorization and construction of nuclear power plants. We must try to reduce the time required to make nuclear plants operational [...] from ten to six years, this time gap must be reduced".

In conclusion, Nixon underlined the importance of eliminating waste, saving energy and the commitment of all citizens. «In any case, the key to their success [measures launched by the government, ed ] is not only here in Washington but in every home, in every community in the country. If each of us participates in this effort and shares the spirit and determination that have always characterized the American character, half the battle will have already been won. Hearing his words today, a strange feeling of deja vu in Italian sauce assails us.

Renato Bonomo
NP December 2022

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