Winter is coming: Will there be an OPEC oil embargo?

Cars wait in long lines during the gas shortage. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection, Warren K. Leffler).

During the Yom Kippur War war between Arabs and Israel in 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries imposed an oil embargo against the United States in retaliation for the U.S. decision to supply the Israeli military.

It was 50 years ago this month, when President Richard Nixon asked Congress for $2.2 billion in emergency aid for Israel. The ensuing embargo ended U.S. oil imports from OPEC nations, and world oil prices began to destabilize.

The price of oil nearly quadrupled, going from $2.90 a barrel before the embargo to $11.65 by January 1974. The United States also had its first fuel shortage since World War II, and rationing was imposed by the federal government, along with lower speed limits to reduce consumption.

In an essay reflecting on the oil shortage of 1973, and the ensuing inflation, the Federal Reserve wrote, “Ultimately, the oil crisis of 1973 and the accompanying inflation was a result of many factors culminating in a perfect economic storm. The oil embargo of 1973 was just one of many complicating factors that led U.S. policymakers to overestimate our national potential and to underestimate their own role in the broad inflation that occurred throughout the 1970s.”

Arthur Burns, who was the chairman of the Federal Reserve at the time, said that the manipulation of oil prices and supplies by OPEC (then called OPEAC) came at a time when prices for industrial commodities were already rising at a rate of 10% annually, and many major industrial materials were scarce in the United States, which had gotten itself into a position of not being able to increase the amount of oil to the market in response to the oil embargo. Inflation skyrocketed.

OPEC had enormous power in the 1970s, which ended up being one of the most convincing reasons the Trans Alaska Pipeline System was approved by Congress.

That vote to allow the pipeline came in July 1973, with the Senate voting to end a three-year fight by environmentalists to stop the pipeline. That is when Vice President Spiro Agnew cast his first deciding vote — and the Trans Alaska Pipeline was approved.

On Nov. 7, Nixon announced Project Independence to promote domestic energy independence. There had to be a better path forward.

The embargo ended in March 1974, after some members of OPEC had decided enough was enough. But the higher prices created by the OPEC oil embargo remained.

The parallels between 1973 and 2023 — a 50-year timespan — are similar but different.

Today, as war between Israel and her enemies is once again threatening to destabilize markets, the energy policy that the Biden White House has enacted, and the Bidenomic economic policies that has driven inflation have left America in a tough position to quickly respond to changing markets.

Also, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is now down to 351 million barrels, a drop of 14% since last year.

The SPR was established by President Gerald Ford two years after the embargo, when he signed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act on Dec. 22, 1975, setting for a U.S. policy to have a reserve of up to one billion barrels of petroleum.

The reserve, stable for generations, has been continually drained by the Biden Administration since 2021 to prop up the economy and keep fuel prices down. By the summer of 2022, however, the national average cost of gas was $5.02 per gallon, having increased over 132% since Biden took office in 2021, when it was $2.16 per gallon.

Although Hamas came on the scene later, in 1987, as a growth of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is committed to armed resistance against Israel and the creation of an Islamic Palestinian State where Israel now exists and has existed since first recognized as a country in 1948, as a place where Jews could live in peace. Hamas is now the point of the spear for what has been described as a war on the Jews.

Other global conditions have also changed in the 50 years since the OPEC oil embargo and the 75 years since Israel was first recognized as a country. China is a growing military power, and has just moved six warships into the Mediterranean Sea. Iran, once oppressed by the Soviet Union, is now an ally of Russia and is a sponsor of terrorism.

In addition, there’s a war that developed when Russia invaded Ukraine one year after Biden took office. The United States has spent over $75 billion defending Ukraine — all of the spending is borrowed money from primarily Japan, China, and other bond-holders.

Now, while the Biden Administration cuts off domestic production in Alaska, the United States is getting more of its oil from Canada than it did leading up to the oil embargo of 1973. The top five oil importers include:

  • Canada 52%
  • Mexico 10%
  • Saudi Arabia 7%
  • Iraq 4%
  • Colombia 3%

Read more about the oil embargo of 1973-74 at the State Department’s history page.


  1. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

    For some reason it seems that those who lean left would prefer that we all were not able to remember the past.

  2. Suzanne, I worked in the Alaska State Senate in October of 1973 during the,Special Session to decide Oil Tax Legislation. Looking back upon that it occurs to me that we’ve learned nothing as a Nation or as a State about energy security.

    I think however that Alaskans should erect a monument to dear old Spiro or at least name a mountain after him. I mean we’ve erected monuments to Dogs for far less, but maybe dogs are Democrats?

    50 years on and the world has churned more revolutions than my Miracle-Gro Composters and yet here we are, back where we started. Why?

    • I was in Maryland when Spiro was Governor. This is a RINO whose corruption rivaled brandon’s… Please don’t defile our State with his name – just be thankful he did one thing right.

      • Rich Thorne, Spiro was from the East Coast, a place that is well known for corruption in politics. Credit the son of a Greek immigrant for two things, his service in WWII where he fought the Nazi’s in the Battle if the Bulge where he was awarded the Broze Star and his voting for the Trans Alaska Pipeline!

        Build a monument to him!

  3. 50 years and all we could come up with was an oil pipeline and the Strategic Reserve. One would have thought “hey, lets build a petroleum infrastructure where we’d be 100% independent if this were to happen again”. Yes, we could have still imported and used someone else’s crude but man, wouldn’t it have been nice to be prepared?

    • There is strategic value in burning the other guy’s oil – when world supplies get low, we will still have some. Doesn’t help in the short term…

  4. Obama said it best when they announced Joe Biden won the Primary in 2020.
    “Leave it to Joe Biden. He knows how to really F**K S**T up”.

  5. Do you think it’s connected , oil embargo and the approval of Trans Alaska Pipeline ? I do ! How else would congress approve the construction ? People were outraged in this country back in the early 70’s. Simple math , If Oil was $2 per barrel in 1972 , and $100 per barrel in 2023 , why is not Alaska producing more oil ? In fact Alaska is producing today less than 20% of the oil we produced in 1985 . Even calculated with inflation , oil today is 5 times what it was in 1972 . And no , I don’t think we should tax the oil more ! Ask a politician about this ? Keeping in mind a politician has never produced a drop of oil in Alaska ! Not one drop !

    The price of home heating fuel is going through the roof in our wonderful state . It’s the lifeblood of living in most of remote Alaska ( everywhere but Anchorage ) . Anchorage has abundant gas , however it’s going up . That’s another story in itself . For another day .

    Please tell me why we are not producing more of our North Slope oil for the benefit of all Alaskans ? Big question folks ? Maybe even produce the gas on the Slope for the benefit of our Alaskan people . The North Slope is the largest untapped gas field on the planet . The politicians who have never produced a drop of oil have been working overtime on the gas project . I smell a rat !

    • Dan, the bill to pass the pipeline took place prior to the Oil Embargo, if memory serves.

      The bill was passed through the House due to HEAVY support from Construction Trade Union support. It wouldn’t have happened with out Nick Begich, Spiro T Agnew and the Trades Unionists. ( I know Don Young was in the house after March ’73, but Nick did the heavy lifting before he died)

      • Dan, getting old sucks, one forgets things. That said… the Oil Embargo was actually an action done by the Shah of Iran in an effort to get Nixon to sell F-14 Fighter Jets to Iran. It worked, he got the Jets, but they were pretty worthless to him in the end. Something about the retractable wing? The Air Force built a Trukey on the same design too, didn’t work out well. Should have listened to John Boyd, the father of the F-16!

        • My friend said I was getting old the other day . 63 is not old .

          What your saying is probably true about Nixon . However , the Congressmen and Don Jonz going missing on the way to Juneau helped with the vote in the house to approve the building of the TransAlaska Pipeline . It was tie vote with Begich and Boggs absent from the floor of the house . Spiro Agnew settled the tie and deciding vote to move TAPS forward to construction . Oil Embargo , missing Congressmen and Agnew’s vote in that succession, unless history is being rewritten . I lived it !

    • Recent announcement by the state of Alaska claimed Cook Inlet gas is getting depleted pretty quickly and that the state will have to start importing LNG from abroad around 2026. That is going to absolutely bugger people living in the Cook Inlet basin who rely on gas for heating and cooking, not to mention an insane overhead for businesses in the area. All at a time when state revenues are drying up and Alaskans are seriously having to consider imposing state income taxes, sales taxes, etcetera in the near future. When about half of the state doesn’t work because they live outside of the developed areas and don’t have access to jobs, the problem gets even more complicated. The state will be in a pickle because if they tax the worker bees too much, those people will just fly off to a hive (state) where they’re not getting robbed blind. Conversely, if the state doesn’t keep subsidizing everything relating to life in Bush Alaska, those people are going to vote out incumbents and demand continued services, which would no longer be affordable. It’s a bad situation no matter which way you look at it.

  6. It was in this economic environment the new junior Senator from Delaware, Joe Biden, voted against the creation of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.

    • Yes you are right about Joe on his vote against TAPS as He has always deemed it more important to rely on foreign oil (much easier to coerce cash donations to his Family).
      But mysteriously the biggest flipflop in his voting record was when He championed the crime bill which put many blacks behind bars as he bragged about “there will be jailtime for jaywalking” and he voted against desegregating schools through bussing.
      Someone must have showed him the voter registration listing how many voters were black to finally change “Ole Cornpops” mind about the dollar value of the black vote and now its “if you aint voting for me you aint black”

  7. The reason, at least for Democrats, is that US produced oil causes climate change. They say if we go 1.5 degrees warmer, we’re all going to die. Somehow foreign oil does not cause this 1.5 degree increase. A real head scratcher for sure.

  8. The embargo spiked the prices. The gas lines and shortages were created by Nixon’s price controls. Worked so well that they did it again in 1979. Other thing that happened was Jimmy busily threatening to lock up most of Alaska as national monuments. That threat led to ANILCA.

    Brandon has all but locked up oil and natural gas exploration on federal lands. Happily it is doing pretty well on state and private lands, that is until his regulators manage to shut that down also. Cheers –

  9. 4 years ago we were independent of the killers that hold us hostage with their oil. This administration has made the world a very volatile place and should be held to account for destroying our society.

  10. Well if there is an embargo then I am sure the climate scaredy cats and the liberal democrats will be fine with no oil so the rest of us can continue to live as we want.

  11. We were energy independent when Biden stole the presidency with the help of all the Dumbocrats and clever programming of voting machines. The question that we should be asking now is whether all that followed to weaken our country was part of a bigger plan or just gross incompetence. With these liberals running things it’s a toss up.

  12. Not sure if anyone here knows this…but we are now a net exporter of oil. We are producing almost 13 mbd of oil. We still import much of our oil because the majority of our refineries are set up for heavy crude. We can’t use the lighter, sweet crude we are producing. It cost a lot of money to revamp the refineries. Much of the heavy stuff we get from Canada.
    Much to do about nothing?🤷‍♂️

    • This past month US crude imports exceeded 6 million BPD.
      Refinery crude inputs exceed 15 million BPD.
      As noted above US crude oil production approaches 13 million BPD.
      My math suggests that US crude imports still exceed crude exports.
      That does not make the US a net crude oil exporter.

      • I stand corrected. We are a net oil importer. However we are are a net petroleum exporter because of liquified gas.

        • Your reference is US crude and condensate exports. The issue here is Alaskan refining and fuel use. Alaska does not export any liquified natural gas.

          Cook Inlet Crude Oil goes to Kenai refinery / those products are used in Alaska.
          Valdez Refinery processes Alaska North Slope (ANS) Crude / those products are used in Alaska.

    • You got that right ! However I am more concerned with Alaska and Alaskans and care less about much money my oil friends in Houston Tx are making off of oil and gas . HomeHeating fuel is a vital necessity at -40F for most Alaskans . Oil is here in Alaska to benefit all Alaskans and it’s not being maximized either in refining ( unless your talking cheap JetFuel in Anchorage ) . HomeHeating fuel should be refined competitively for all Alaskan’s , not just FedEx and UPS jetFuel sales in ANC .

      I was at the pump the other day Fbks and three of the four home fuel distributors in Fbks were out of home heating fuel and the pump I was using went up 40 cents per gallon between loads ! Can’t make this stuff up . It was plus 40F , what is going to happen at minus 40F ! Call a fuel distributor in Fbks and maybe get your fuel delivered in a week if your lucky . No worries in Anchorage ! Fbks is becoming the largest village on the Tanana River , I am sorry to say !

      • I loved living in good old Fairbanks. Sad and tragic. Hopefully people can still burn wood there…… Oh wait. Obama screwed that up didn’t he?

  13. And we still are not permitted to build any new refinery to refine our own oil. Sure, we are permitted once a company jumps through all the hoops of promises and permits, paying huge amounts of money along the way promising that the air will be cleaner than when it started and rainbows and unicorn farts will be the only exhaust. But what company can risk doing all that knowing now more than ever that the US govt is a promise breaker – Keystone? ANWR? We told the world we do not keep our promises, which is probably worse and consequential than these two examples of canceled projects.

    • We are refining our own fuel. I keep hearing people say we need a refinery. Marathon in kenai makes gas diesel and jet a and the refinery in valdez makes diesel and jet fuel. If we got in a situation I’m sure we could hold those refineries to just Alaska delivery and no export.

      • Several years ago, I was shocked to learn that Alaska was importing roughly 75% of the gasoline and aviation fuel used in this state. I don’t know if that situation has changed much in the last few year, but I have a hard time seeing how it could have.

        • I didn’t believe it until I saw this. I thought Uncle Ted locked up Alaska’s oil only for US use. ‘

        • All the AvGas comes from Tx ! Crowley is sticking it to us real bad on AvGas . They control the entire market ! If it continues with no competition by next year , should be $10 a gallon in Fbks !

          We should be making our own AvGas as Alaska uses 25-30% of the nations AvGas . Maybe we could send an Alaskan commodity to Tx to increase the cost living in Tx like they and Crowley affect us ! Criminal

      • “ We still import much of our oil because the majority of our refineries are set up for heavy crude. We can’t use the lighter, sweet crude we are producing.”

        That’s not true. At least it wasn’t until the Obama administration started shutting down refinery numbers and limiting development. That was when we started getting fossil fuels from Hugo Chavez…..the communist.

        • where have you gathered that absolute nonsense?

          Any idea how much product is delivered to Alaska from elsewhere?

          • Yeah…….a lot, that’s kind of the point. Maybe we should be keeping some at home and not buy so much from elsewhere. As far as where I get it…..uh well I guess from working in vmt.

    • Yes and the folks were sending to Juneau are working on the GasLine when not one of them has ever produced a drop of NorthSlope oil . They talk about building the GasLine and it’s just around the corner . It’s been around the corner for 45 years . In fact a company was building a GasLine from Umiat to Fbks back in fifties , headline news ! Next year gas in Fbks ! Whatever happened to that GasLine ?

      Fairbanks is the largest city in the world with out a gas pipeline from producing field to distribution . Because of the temperature difference between the interior and CookInlet region , Fbks would consume as much gas at Anchorage if production was delivered by pipeline .

  14. Wow! Reading all these comments about where oil is being bought and sold and where refining is done is making me very dizzy.
    Its more comical asking a room full of preschoolers how babies are made and where they come from.
    Could there possibly be too many fake news sources????? Possibly to fool us into believing something that supports their agenda?
    Oh please say it aint so…

    • Kenai and valdez Andy. Is that simple enough for you.?? We are exporting fuel from both locations. That could be stopped if we have a situation and every drop could be kept in state.

      • All of the Gasoline, Jet Fuel and Diesel produced in Kenai and Valdez are used in Alaska.
        Additional fuels are shipped to Alaska to fuel our activities.

        No fuel is being exported to another country nor the lower 48 states.

    • Well Andy we don’t want you dizzy ! per capita , Alaskans use more fossil fuel to live than any place in the world . This is per person use . You can hold that fact ! We have oil and gas resources on the North Slope that exceed all oil reserves in most other country’s of the world . Our Federal government thinks it’s better to produce oil from other country’s of the world as they do a cleaner job producing and don’t damage the planet ! Our oil in Alaska is not being produced to the benefit of all Alaskans . It’s in our Alaskan constitution .

  15. Will there be an OPEC oil embargo? Let’s Go Brandon – “hold my beer!” We’ve got another year of the Biden/Blinken sh#tshow to watch.

  16. Liberals in Alaska are about to get what they voted for. Problem is the rest of you will have to deal with the consequences too. My suggestion? Do nothing, and I mean nothing to help the liberals out of their mess. Otherwise, they’ll never learn from their mistakes.

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