ENERGY: The Arabs' New Oil Squeeze: Dimouts, Slowdowns, Chills

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The tightening in worldwide oil supplies is also kicking up the cost. Since January Venezuela has doubled its price, to $7.20 per bbl. In the past three weeks, Nigeria's has almost doubled, to $8.40 per bbl., and Indonesia's has increased 20%, to $6 per bbl. Price controls on U.S.-produced petroleum will be slowly loosened in the near future in order to tempt oilmen to expand exploration and boost supplies. Rising oil prices will lift the cost of such other fuels as propane, natural gas and even coal.

Air of Siege. In the past year, the Labor Department's index of wholesale prices of gasoline, heating oil and other refined petroleum products has risen a walloping 40.4%. According to some estimates, within the next few months regular gasoline will probably climb an average of 9¢, to 50¢ per gal. Home heating fuel is expected to almost double in price, to 40¢ or more. Kerosene, diesel oil and jet fuel will all climb proportionately. Rising fuel costs will increase the price of electric power. Altogether, soaring fuel prices will pump $8 billion to $10 billion of pure inflation into the economy. Still, there is a limit to what consumers will pay. Even without Government restrictions, higher prices will force many Americans to forgo some of their wasteful ways: the long, speedy, aimless car trips; round-the-clock air" conditioning and hothouse home heating.

The Arab oil cutbacks have hurt almost all countries. Gasoline prices soared from $1.01 to $1.49 per gal. in India, and to dramatize the seriousness of the shortages, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took to riding in a two-wheeled horse-drawn gig. In The Netherlands, Prime Minister Joop den Uyl pedaled to work on a bike, and a strict ban was imposed on Sunday driving.

In most of Europe, there was a vague air of siege. Fuel prices are going up, driving restrictions have been imposed, and in Britain ration cards have already been printed—just in case. Last week the German Bundestag granted Chancellor Willy Brandt's government blanket emergency powers to take whatever steps it deems necessary to hold down the use of gasoline and heating oil. The oil emergency has oddly cheered some European intellectuals and other elitists who have shown some disdain for the upward mobility of the masses since World War II. Says Maurice Couve de Murville, France's former Premier: "It is very much like the Bordeaux wine shortage. Only those who can afford Bordeaux now drink it, and only those who can afford gasoline will be able to drive. That is not an unhealthy thing."

Last week, at the prodding of Arab diplomats who said bluntly that Europe had to "tilt" its Middle East policies in favor of the Arabs, foreign ministers of the nine-member European Common Market shucked their threadbare cloaks of neutrality. They jointly called on Israel to accept a settlement agreeable to the Arabs. Though the open capitulation to Arab demands has a craven air about it, the Europeans have no real alternative. They depend on the Arabs for 73% of their petroleum. Unlike the U.S., they have little oil of their own.

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