Past Seminar

The Energy Crisis of the 1970s: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Oct 5, 2016 Resources for the Future, 1616 P St. NW, Washington, DC, 20036

About the Event

Meg Jacobs

At this RFF seminar, Meg Jacobs, Princeton historian and author of Panic at the Pump: The Energy Crisis and the Transformation of American Politics in the 1970s,* will explore the history and politics of energy policy in the 1970s. In the book, she examines how the twin oil shocks of that decade—the 1973–1974 Arab oil embargo followed by the Iranian revolution five years later—caught American policymakers by surprise and discusses why they encountered so many challenges in devising effective solutions. Even as the crisis gave momentum to the creation of the US Department of Energy, the lines for gasoline undermined public confidence in Washington’s ability to resolve the crisis. President Carter made some progress with the passage of his National Energy Act of 1978, but the political divisions made enduring reforms of energy production and use challenging. The result was a stalemate rather than a new framework for national energy policy. By the time of the 1991 Gulf War, Americans had continued to be substantially reliant on oil from abroad, including from the Middle East. Meg Jacobs analyzes these issues in her history of the energy crisis, providing a cautionary tale for today.



  • Richard G. Newell, President and CEO, Resources for the Future
  • Joel Darmstadter, Senior Fellow Emeritus
  • Meg Jacobs, Research Scholar, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Alan J. Krupnick, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future
  • Jan Mares, Senior Advisor, Resources for the Future