Heavy with cargo, low-riding oil tankers bucked through the windblown South Atlantic last week on their way from the Persian Gulf to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Norfolk, New York and other U.S. ports. In a week or so, they will tie up at their destinationsand the U.S. will enter a sterner, more painful new era of energy shortages. These huge ships were the last to be loaded before the Arab states blocked all petroleum shipments to the U.S. in retaliation for American support of Israel. The Arab move is expected to diminish by a disruptive 18% or more the minimum flow of fuel that the nation needs to run its industries and farms, heat and light its homes, schools and offices, and keep its cars, trucks, buses and planes moving.
Responding to this threat, President Nixon scheduled an appearance on nationwide television on Sunday night. He planned to order Government restrictions on sales of gasoline and heating fuels at the wholesale level and to urge limitations on highway speeds and a coast-to-coast blackout of all unnecessary outdoor lighting. The U.S. this winter faces a big freeze. Not only will many people be colder than they wish, but they will also be frozen out of using as much power and fuel as they might desire.
Interior Secretary Rogers Morton reports that shortages of heavy residual oil for public utilities and factories will begin pinching by early December. By January, Morton adds, home heating oil and diesel and jet fuel will be scarce, and a substantial drying up of gasoline stocks can be expected by mid-February. Charles J. DiBona, the Deputy Director of Energy Policy, warns that the heavily industrialized Northeast, which uses a great deal more Arab oil than the rest of the country, could wind up trying to make do with only half of its normal supply of home heating oil and struggling through electric brownouts and blackouts.
In fact, energy will remain scarce even if the Arabs relax their embargo. John A. Love, President Nixon's energy chief, predicts that it will be three to five years at best before world oil production and refinery capacity is increased enough to again bring energy supplies abreast of demand. The shortage, he said last week, will bring about "a change of approach to our life-style and economy," and the nation can no longer continue doubling its demand for energy every ten or twelve years.
Cars Slow. Unprepared Americans as well as Europeans, Japanese and other peoplesthus have to face up to the flinty prospect of learning to live with less energy and paying more for it. Last week the Labor Department announced that living costs jumped in October at an annual rate of 9.6%, largely because of the rising cost of fuel. The fuel crisis threatens to reduce consumer spending, cut next year's expected real economic growth by one percentage point or more, raise unemployment by a percentage point or so, and lead the nation closer to a recession.