Gas and Oil Prices: Then and Now

It seems like today the subject that is most often brought up in conversation is the price of oil and gasoline. Many people are shocked to see gas prices skyrocket to or above $4 a gallon. Of course this isn’t the only time gas prices have crippled driving in America. Since this is a topic generating a great deal of interest, I thought it would be interesting to see the reactions, thoughts, and conjectures of people at YSU. Their theories about who was behind it and what actions they took and are taking to minimize the effects upon their day to day lives. I decided to rummage through the Jambar Newspaper archive to find some answers.

During the 1970’s several problems occurred in the Middle East that caused the raising of gas prices. In 1973 there was the OPEC embargo of the United States because of the US support for Israel. In 1979 Iraq invaded Iran and both countries significantly, if not completely, stopped their export of oil, leading President Jimmy Carter to declare an “energy crisis” in America.

Despite these problems that globally affected the world, many of the opinions generated in the 1970s closely reflect current themes. Many people believed that the Middle Eastern events were just the oil companies taking advantage of the situation. For example, in the January 15, 1974 edition of The Jambar, an article titled, “Oil Slicks,” states that oil prices were “spurred by capitalistic avarice, the oil firms are priggishly manipulating the market, hoarding petroleum reserves, raking in windfall profits, operating refineries below capacity, and providing inertia in the administrative agencies laden with oil lobbyists. Simultaneously, the industry has paid lip-service to superficial solutions….Simply put, the industry is benefiting from the oil crunch by manipulating supply and demand.” More reactions like today were reflected by YSU Professor of Economics, Dr. Taghi T. Kermani in the Aug 2, 1979 issue of The Jambar. He spoke of the “Energy Crisis” as, “being played up…It sounds very odd to hear that there is a lack of energy, lack of oil, and every time you read about it the oil profits have gone up 30, 40, or 50 percent.” He claims that “the American people have been fed nothing but lame excuses.” So what did they do about it?

On Nov 9, 1973, The Jambar printed an article on a “Computerized car pool” proposal. However, the response was “lukewarm,” due to the giving out of personal information. Alternative energy was also suggested at the time with coal and nuclear energy and The Jambar (1/15/1974) stated that “energy industries should be nationalized as public utilities with “profits” filtered back to the citizenry.” A task force was also suggested by the University to find ways to reduce energy on campus during the “Energy Crisis.” The government also initiated C.A.F.E. (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) to increase the miles per gallon in cars.

The energy crisis of the 1970’s ended in the early 1980’s with an “oil glut,” caused by a decrease in demand and an over production of supplies. This begs the question: Can the same thing happen today? An article on CNNMoney suggests that oil prices will eventually tank, but with end of summer prices heading towards $5 a gallon, it seems like many of us will suffer pain at the pump for a while before it gets any better.

Today, many people are considering other transportation alternatives like scooters or public transportation. The production of SUVs and trucks has been severely cut and the production of small cars and hybrids has increased. The government is trying to focus on other forms of energy such as electric, ethanol, and wind. Countries, like Iceland, are working on a completely “fossil-fuel free economy” with a focus on hydrogen power. At YSU, students are getting second jobs to help pay for rising gas prices, scheduling classes so they won’t have to drive to Youngstown everyday during the week, or, unfortunately, not attending class as much as they should, according to a recent article in The Jambar. Will history repeat itself, only time will tell.

Want to see more about the current oil crisis? Click on this link.

What makes a record historical and another not?

In the archives world there always seems to be quandaries (I think there always will be) when deciding what to keep. Do we base it on precedent, major events, social theory, macro-appraisal theory, or another of the myriad of ideas that have taken hold. The easy answer is, “just save the historical record.” But what makes a record historical? Is it society, the “objective archivist,” an event, survival (what records survive and which ones do not), or a combination of all four?

Many times the historical record is simply what was left behind, such as the Domesday Book or the Bayeux Tapestry. Such archival appraisal decisions become self-evident. However, the luxury of being able to apply a simplistic acquisition and appraisal decision is no longer viable. Paper and recently with the growth of electronic communications, have rendered appraisal to be the most difficult of decisions. This brings us back to our original question, what then is a historical record? Is a record historical from the beginning or does it take time to acquire such a meaning?

There have been many theories related to this dilemma. Herodutus, the father of history, (while not addressing this question) tried to capture the memory of the past by telling of achievements and conflicts of the Ionian people. His reliance on oral records, with a few exceptions, such as his use of physical (descriptions of buildings, bridges, and sculptures) and oracular evidence proves the theory of using what ever is available at the time. The current era (the last 100 years) has definitely produced an assortment of new theories that shed further light on the quandary.

Some modern theorists conclude that the historical record is whatever the creator (creator here refers to one who gives “birth” to a record, not an infinite being or deity) decides it is, this is commonly referred to as Jenkinsonism, after famed archival thinker Sir Hillary Jenkinson. Some prefer that the archivist (supposedly staying objective) by applying evidential and informational theories, can capture the zeitgeist of society or rely on some form of a documentary strategy (using major themes or events as a starting point) to decide what is historical. While others have advocated the use of societal norms as the principle axiom for documenting society.

All of these theories still rely on the subjective individual entering the appraisal process at some point. Archival theorists contend (implicitly), that their theories remove the subjective element and allow for only an objective methodology. While this is a noble belief, it is delusional to believe that this is ever true. Even though G.W.F. Hegel wrote the following for historians, it can be easily applied to archivists, “any historian who claims to let the facts speak for themselves brings his categories with him and sees the data through them.” In other words, even when the archivist is using supposedly objective tools in deciding what is historical, he still processes them through the subjective. All of his prejudices, ignorance, and knowledge become part of the decision making process, regardless of what mechanisms are used. (This is especially compounded by limitations in repository storage space.) Without belaboring the issue or having some readers ask the question, “when are you going to answer the question?” here goes.

Any record can be perceived as historical, what we really refer to as historical and non-historical is a matter of degree. The problem is not what makes a record historical but what records define our society (past, present and future) and its ideas better then others. But the individual archivist can never hope to capture, even within a small geographical framework, a complete societal or institutional pathology. As mentioned before, an individual is restricted by his senses and can only perceive an infinitesimal small amount of events, words, and deeds. Even greater then these sensory limitations are societies scarce resources of time, money, and space (this will be the subject of another blog) and the other subjective actors involved in the record making process (that make the job even more difficult). All records regardless of form (written, oral, 3-D) give us insight into humanity; it is the archivist who decides to what degree.