Quiz: What You Don’t Know About Oil Crisis History


Photograph from AP

Historians say the modern era of energy began on October 17, 1973, when Arab exporters unleashed the “oil weapon” with an embargo against the United States and its allies. How much do you know about the global oil shocks of the past 40 years and how they changed the world?

Quiz by Marianne Lavelle

What were Arab oil-exporting countries protesting when they launched the embargo in October 1973?

  • U.S. support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War
  • U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia
  • U.S. pipeline construction through Turkey
  • U.S. deployment of combat ships in the Persian Gulf

The embargo was in response to U.S. support for Israel, including massive airlifting and sea transport of arms and military equipment.

Six months before the 1973 embargo, President Richard Nixon delivered the first-ever presidential address on energy, announcing the lifting of what Eisenhower-era policy?

  • Federal support for interstate highway construction
  • The national maximum speed limit of 70 miles per hour
  • Federal heating fuel subsidies
  • Quotas limiting foreign oil imports

With demand high and U.S. oil fields producing at capacity, in April 1973 President Nixon announced he would abolish the limits on oil imports under a quota system put into place by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1959.

In 2012, 40 percent of the petroleum consumed in the United States was imported from foreign countries, down from the 2005 high point of 60 percent. What share of U.S. oil was imported when the embargo hit in October 1973?

  • 17 percent
  • 37 percent
  • 57 percent
  • 77 percent

Net imports of petroleum added up to 37 percent of U.S. oil consumption in 1973.

When Arab nations restored their production and the embargo was lifted after six months, world crude oil prices had tripled from their 1973 average. What was the post-embargo price per barrel?

  • $5
  • $12
  • $25
  • $100

Prices tripled from their 1973 average to $12 a barrel, which in inflation-adjusted terms is equivalent to $56. (For contrast, the price of a barrel of oil on the world market in 2012 averaged $112.)

On board a plane to Moscow on October 20, 1973, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger first learned of the oil embargo led by Saudi Arabia. He received word of what other shocking news of that day after landing?

  • The Watergate break-in
  • The bombing of Cambodia
  • The resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew
  • The firing of the Watergate special prosecutor

President Nixon’s firing of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox occurred just as news of the Arab oil embargo hit. The Watergate scandal would prove a major distraction in dealing with the energy crisis.

In the months after the Arab oil embargo, big oil-consuming nations formed an organization to ensure future energy security. How much oil do member countries of the International Energy Agency (IEA) agree to hold in emergency stockpile?

  • 100 million barrels
  • 500 million barrels
  • Enough to replace 90 days of imports
  • Enough to replace 90 days’ supply

Each of the IEA’s 28 member countries agree to hold emergency oil stocks equivalent to 90 days of the previous year’s net imports. The largest stockpile, the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, is stored in underground salt caverns along the Gulf of Mexico coast.

In 1974, the U.S. Congress enacted a national 55 mile per hour (88.5 km/hour) speed limit as a fuel-saving measure, and barred federal funding for any state that adopted higher highway speeds. How much was annual U.S. gas consumption reduced as a result?

  • 0.2 to 3 percent
  • 2 to 13 percent
  • 13 to 20 percent
  • 20 to 30 percent

Studies showed the 55 mph limit, in place for 21 years, cut gas consumption 0.2 to 3 percent. Nationwide impact, affected by compliance and other factors, was more modest than the 5 to 10 percent savings a single motorist can realize by reducing highway speed by 5 mph.

In Europe in 1973, the average fuel economy of passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) was 23 miles per gallon (9.7 kilometers per liter). What was average fuel economy of U.S. passenger vehicles in 1973?

  • 5.3 mpg (2.25 km/l)
  • 13.3 mpg (5.7 km/l)
  • 20.3 mpg (8.6 km/l)
  • 24.3 mpg (10.3 km/l)

The year that the embargo hit, U.S. passenger vehicles averaged 13.3 mpg (5.7 km/l). Not until 2010 would the average for U.S. passenger vehicles (those with short wheelbases only) surpass the 23 mpg (9.7 km/l) fuel economy mark that European cars had achieved 37 years earlier.

What event in the late 1970s would cause a run-up in the price of oil as dramatic as the increase in the wake of the Arab oil embargo?

  • U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s energy conservation drive
  • Nuclear power plant accident at Three Mile Island
  • Iranian revolution and Iran-Iraq war
  • Terrorist seizure of the Grand Mosque at Mecca in Saudi Arabia

The overthrow of the shah of Iran in early 1979, and the ensuing Iran-Iraq war beginning in 1980, cut production dramatically and pushed the crude oil price to the unprecedented level of $35 a barrel (equivalent to $90.05 in 2013 dollars).

The shortages that led to long lines at gas pumps in the United States in the 1970s were worsened by a U.S. government system of oil and gasoline price controls and geographical supply allocation requirements. What president put these into place?

  • Lyndon Johnson
  • Richard Nixon
  • Gerald Ford
  • Jimmy Carter

The gasoline price controls took effect on August 15, 1971, part of President Nixon's program to control inflation. President Carter launched a phased deregulation of energy prices, and the controls were eliminated January 20, 1981, the day President Ronald Reagan was sworn in.





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