What Is Meant by the Energy Crisis?

The energy crisis refers to a period during the 1970s when the United States' consumption of oil and gas began to outstrip domestic production. Initially, America was able to import oil from Arab countries, but the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OAPEC, placed an export embargo that caused supplies to dwindle and prices to rise.

In the early-1970s, America began consuming more gas and oil than it was able to produce. Initially, this did not cause worry, as Washington believed that the U.S. could continue importing oil from Arab countries. However, OAPEC placed an export embargo on the country, due to the country's support for Israel during the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The discontent arose in Israel following World War II, when the allied forces allocated Palestinian territory to Jewish settlers looking for a safe place to live. Arabs living in the region did not support this move, and conflicts soon followed. As the U.S. and the Netherlands acted as Israel's biggest supporters, their participation, in part, encouraged OAPEC to implement an oil embargo. Despite Washington's predictions that Arab oil suppliers would need the United States to remain financially solvent, this was not the case.

The energy crisis had both domestic and international repercussions. The price per barrel of oil rose by 130 percent, and prices remained high even after the embargo ended in 1974. To alleviate the crisis, President Nixon attempted to pass energy policies, but as confidence in his office was weak following the Watergate Scandal, they were largely ineffective.

During the crisis, people lined up for lengthy periods of time at gas stations, many of which shut temporarily. The crisis also sparked a new interest in renewable energy and people became more aware of their energy consumption and how it affected the environment.