ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: Oil: Squeezing the Industrial Society

Vol VIII, No 49      DECEMBER 8, 1973

The 30 per cent reduction in Arab oil supplies has begun to sound warning signals of grave economic disruption in all the industrialised Western European countries and in Japan. Even the United States has begun to show signs of alarm. So far, all these countries have taken only token measures to control fuel consumption. Sunday motoring has been banned and there have been entreaties to cut down on the heating of homes, places of entertainment and offices. But this will not offset the cut in oil supplies from the Arabs. For instance, even in a highly motorised society like the US, the energy used in transportation forms only 20 per cent of total energy consumption, residential requirements account for 19 per cent and commercial uses for 14 per cent. It is industry which accounts for 43 per cent of total energy consumption. In Western Europe and Japan where transportation and residential requirements are relatively frugal compared to those in America, the proportion of energy used up by industry is even higher.

Besides, oil is crucial not only in the sense of supplying vital energy requirements, but a number of new, high-technology industries are directly dependent on products flowing from oil. These industries include petrochemicals which in turn supplies the raw material for plastics, artificial fibres, pharmaceuticals and other industries. The snowball effect on the economies of the industrialised countries of even a small oil shortage is thus likely to be tremendous. A number of industries in the United States, Western Europe and Japan have already begun to be affected. […]

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