Historical Social Research

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Nuno Luis Madureira: Waiting for the Energy Crisis: Europe and the United States on the Eve of the first Oil Shock. [Abstract]

A global economic crisis is the most difficult kind of event to predict. This article asks a straightforward question: did anyone come close to anticipating the oil crisis of 1973/74, which represented a new type of historical sequence? Was the likelihood of an oil shock self-evident at the time? To answer this, I examine the degree of awareness in Europe and the United States of the three possible triggering factors: Egypt’s disposition to start a war and enlist the support of oil-producers; the Arab interest in oil conservation and long-term income maximization; and the imbalance in the oil market and the delayed adjustment of oil prices. For each of these topics, I set out both what was expected and what was actually in the offing; the information available to Western analysts and that unknown; the communication noises and the flagrant bias. The conclusion pays tribute to three men – James Akins, Pierre Wack, and Ted Newland – who had guessed what was coming ahead, and explains why their predictions almost succeeded, while others failed.

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