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While the U.S. gets ready for the severe energy shortage, Europe and Japan are already suffering from a more acute case of oil deficiency. The Arabs have been successfully playing off one nation against another in the hope of preventing any coordinated retaliatory sanctions. After Common Market foreign 2 ministers issued a self-consciously pro-Arab statement in Brussels, the Arabs last week exempted all Common Market members except The Netherlands from a further 5% cutback planned for December. West Germany sent envoys to Saudi Arabia in search of an arrangement that would allow oil destined for Germany to pass through embargoed Dutch ports. Other governments are preparing to ask for their own private deals when Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani swings through major European capitals next week. Reports are circulating in Europe, however, that the Arabs are allowing international oil companies to beat the boycott, at least partially. The companies are said to be taking Indonesian, Venezuelan and Nigerian oil that is destined for Canada and other nonembargoed countries and diverting it to Dutch refineries. To make up the difference, the firms are shipping extra amounts of Arab oil to their refineries in nonembargoed nations.
Despite Arab efforts to reward friends and penalize enemies, nearly every industrialized nation is suffering. Even friendly France is getting 5% less oil than last year because the Arabs have not only slapped embargoes on some nations but cut overall production as well. Britain, which is also on the Arabs' privileged list, is receiving 15% less oil than in 1972. Sunday driving bans have spread across the Continent from Copenhagen to Calabria. The Italian government last week adopted emergency measures that forbid the sale of gasoline in jerry cans (to discourage widespread hoarding), put curfews on stores, restaurants, theaters and even television stations, and limit drivers on the autostrade to a rather un-Italian 75 m.p.h. Auto sales in West Germany are down 30% from last year's rate. Happily, there has also been a decline in accidents.
No nation has been hit harder than Japan, which imports nearly 100% of its oil, including 43% from Arab nations. Kowtowing to Arab demands, the Japanese cabinet last week called on Israel to withdraw from Arab territories that were occupied during the 1967 war, and threatened to reconsider its relations with Israel on the basis of "future developments." By government edict, neon lights are being turned off earlier along Tokyo's gaudy Ginza and the main streets of many other cities, store hours have been reduced and TV broadcasting curtailed. Japanese economists, many of whom had been predicting at least a 10% expansion for 1974, now say that the energy crisis will lead to zero economic growth in the next few months.