NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF EFFICIENCY

PLOS One

PLOS One

Thanks, Arab States. Here’s a nifty illustration of how the “Arab oil embargo” of 1973 threw a cold bucket of moderation over an oil-drunk nation.

I well remember when the Arab members of OPEC stopped selling us oil. Wood stoves sprouted all over our leaky old farmhouse. Well, not quite everywhere–the Mason jars of boiling water we used to warm our beds still froze if we kicked them out onto the floor in the night. But the living room got a giant airtight stove with Nordic deer prancing on its sides, and Dad’s study got a small Jotul, and he glued panels of blue Styrofoam insulation to the inside of that room. Plastic sheeting went up over the windows, and never really came down again. I guess that had less to do with the Arabs than it did with intensifying conflict within the Organization of Petroleum Importing Holmeses. Anyway, the embargo made an impression.

And it left a mark on our national petro-gluttony, too. The red lines in these graphs track total energy use in residential buildings over the years. That hiccup in the early 1970s represents the the time oil jumped from $3 to $12 a barrel. People insulated their houses. They replaced old windows with double-paned ones. Building standards improved. We did better. We consumed less. Thanks, Arabs.

(The top graph is less impressive, because it tracks total energy use, to run refrigerators, water heaters, clothes dryers, massive TVs, etc. The lower graph tracks energy per square foot of house.)

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