“We passed a milestone of national awareness when we recognized for the first time that the bounty of energy resources we had taken for granted for so long was not as limitless as we had once thought.” RN, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
Economic powers such as Germany and Japan are currently leading the way in ending nuclear power production. The Fukushima power plant disaster has since bred stubborn public discontent regarding the future expansion of nuclear energy. As a result, international demand for gas is on the rise. National leaders are scrambling to formulate sound long-term energy policy, further stalling hopes for feasible energy production in the future.
A report by The Guardian reveals the short-term consequences for powering down nuclear plants. As demand for nuclear power continues to fall, it is expected that demand for gas and imported oil will experience a meteoric rise. For the United States, this can only mean an uptick in electricity bills and gas prices.
Apprehension over our world’s ability to produce clean and cost-efficient energy resonates through Richard Nixon’s presidency. Though the current issue is not solely a product of a major war and embargo, it demonstrates a glaring need for a long term sustainable energy policy. It is in the best interest of the United States, and its economy, to seek long term independent energy solutions so that the potential for geopolitically induced energy crises may be averted.
President Nixon once faced an energy crisis the likes of which no US President had ever faced before. The Yom Kippur War had at its conception derailed any favorable diplomatic relationship the United States maintained with the Arab states. Led by leaders of Saudi Arabia, the Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) enforced an embargo of oil against the United States. The embargo was devised to cripple America’s economic engine and by the winter of 1973-74, the results were prevalent. In his memoirs, President Nixon notes how he was shaken at the fact that gas prices had risen the most in 22 years and foreign oil imports had risen from $4 a barrel before the crisis to $12 a barrel afterwards.
To boldly steer the nation through its most precarious winter, President Nixon requested that Congress and the people make aggressive provisions.
“I called for a three-stage conservation effort…Heating in federal buildings would be lowered to between 65 and 68 degrees, and I urged the same for private houses. I called for car pooling and asked state and local governments to set speed limits at fifty miles an hour. I asked Congress to pass an emergency energy act that would give me the authority to relax environmental restrictions on a case-by-case basis as I deemed necessary…I asked that the country be returned to daylight-saving time and called for the imposition of a nationwide speed limit of fifty miles an hour on federal highways.” RN, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon
Unfortunately, only the daylight savings and speed limit bills made it out of Congress before the Christmas recess. But the American people rallied to the cause of a nationwide conservation effort, and by the month of December national gas consumption had fallen 9 percent and electricity use was down 10 percent.
Nevertheless, it was a period which President Nixon deemed “a long winter of energy discontent.”
To help lift the embargo, President Nixon turned toward his Egyptian counterpart, President Anwar Sadat. Reminding President Sadat of the United States’ role in procuring peace in the Middle East and ensuring the Arab states of the United States’ “very real and earnest efforts to get the disengagement on the Syrian front and also to move towards a permanent settlement,” President Nixon’s influence helped precipitate the lifting of the oil embargo.
“The Arab oil embargo caused America’s economic output to decline by as much as $15 billion during the first quarter of 1974. But it can be said that the energy crisis of 1974 had at least one positive effect: it made energy consciousness a part of American life.” RN, The Memoirs of Richard Nixon