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How the 1973 Oil Embargo Saved the Planet

OPEC Gave the Rest of the World a Head Start Against Climate Change

Gas station attendants in Portland, Oregon, November 1973. David Falconer / EPA / U.S. National Archives

Forty years ago this week, six Persian Gulf oil producers voted to raise their benchmark oil price by 70 percent. Over the next two months, the Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cut production and stopped oil shipments to the United States and other countries that were backing Israel in the Yom Kippur War. By the time the embargo was lifted in March 1974, oil prices had stabilized at around $12 a barrel -- almost four times the pre-crisis price. In 1973, that oil shock looked like a triumph for OPEC and a calamity for the rest of the world. The OPEC states enjoyed enormous windfalls and new geopolitical influence, whereas the United States and other oil importers were hit by unprecedented fuel costs and painful recessions.

But over the last four decades, those fortunes have reversed: higher oil prices in the OPEC states have led to spiraling corruption,

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