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October 17, 2013 

40th Anniversary of OPEC Embargo Highlights Continued Need for Oil Savings

Statement by Michelle Robinson, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (Oct. 16, 2013) – Forty years ago today, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) restricted the United States’ access to oil -- triggering an oil crisis that caused severe economic instability but also led to the implementation of several conservation measures and public awareness campaigns that reduced our nation’s oil use.

These measures included a national maximum speed limit of 55 mph, the development of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, and the eventual establishment of the Department of Energy.

Despite the end of the embargo, the threat of our nation’s continued oil use remains. Recent reports from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency recommend dramatic cuts in oil consumption in order to keep the majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

Below is a statement from Michelle Robinson, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles program:

“The anniversary of the oil embargo underscores today, just as it did 40 years ago, just how vulnerable our country is because of our continued oil use. While the embargo may be in the past, the oil we use continues to jeopardize our economy, our security, and our climate. The situation is serious, and like the embargo it calls for equally serious actions to reduce our consumption of oil. 

“While we have made progress as a country to reduce our oil use, including doubling fuel economy and reducing global warming emissions for new vehicles, we must do more. We need a comprehensive strategy like the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Half the Oil plan, which details how efficiency and innovation can help cut our nation’s projected oil consumption in half in the next 20 years.  

“With the right policies and investment in existing and emerging technologies, in 20 years we can cut our country’s annual oil spending by $550 billion, create more than a million jobs, and eliminate some 2 billion metric tons of global warming emissions annually.  Like OPEC 40 years ago, the oil industry will have us over a barrel if we do not take action to fuel a better future. We must begin that future today.”


The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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