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Brock: Forty years after oil embargo, and still no progress

Harvey Brock

Some of my earliest memories were of my parents and us five kids camping in a three-room, heavy canvas tent.

The tent was heavier than the station wagon we needed to haul it. The tent did a really good job of keeping the rain out unless you touched the sides or roof, which would have been easy to accomplish if you didn't have five kids. The tent only took an hour for two adults and five kids to pitch, so you could you imagine my father's excited happiness when he replaced it with a brand new 1972 cab-over camper on a new three-quarter ton pickup.

That euphoria lasted until October 1973 when the oil crisis started.

Members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC -- consisting of the Arab members of OPEC, plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia -- proclaimed an oil embargo.

That year, Egypt and Syria, with the support of other Arab nations, launched a surprise attack on Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Israel went on full nuclear alert, loading warheads into planes and long-range missiles. The United States chose to re-supply Israel with arms and in response, OAPEC decided to retaliate against the U.S., announcing an oil embargo. It lasted until March 1974.

To those who aren't old enough to remember, during that time gas prices skyrocketed and fuel was in short supply.

Those service stations that had gas to sell would limit customers to 10 gallons per day. Most, like my dad, would have to wait in line for what seemed like an eternity every day to get its 10 gallons for commuting to work for his gas guzzling pickup. Sunday drives and using the new camper were unthinkable. Americans like my dad, though outraged, were helpless to do much other than complain and adapt.

In November of that same year, President Richard Nixon launched Project Independence, with the goal of achieving energy self-sufficiency by 1980.

Recalling the Manhattan Project, Nixon declared that American science, technology and industry could free the U.S. from dependence on foreign oil.

Forty years later, we are still as dependent -- if not more so -- on foreign oil.

Since 1973 we have spent trillions of dollars with countries that don't like us, fought wars and sacrificed U.S. soldiers to protect our oil supply. Every time something happens in the Middle East, like the current Syrian civil war, the price of oil and gas skyrockets.

There is a federal Department of Energy in Washington, but nothing that comes even close to an energy plan to stop this madness.

T. Boone Pickens, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and others have laid out plans to end foreign dependence of oil. But, for whatever reasons, nothing gets done.

History has a way of repeating and maybe it will take another embargo to realize the need to accomplish the goal of Project Independence.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press. Email him at