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.

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