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May 20, 1974

Energy Crisis

JAMA. 1974;228(8):1031. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230330061029

With the Christmas season of 1973, an energy crisis suddenly developed. Or did it? That is to say, was the crisis sudden? In one sense it was, because the Arab nations abruptly turned off the oil—stopped shipments to nations that had, in any way, shown sympathy to the Israeli cause.

In another sense, there was nothing sudden at all. In 1798, Malthus, an English economist and pioneer in modern population study, made dire predictions about the fate of mankind. Later, his views were refuted as the world entered the Machine Age and new frontiers appeared. In the United States, until the 20th century, thefrontiers seemed boundless. Also, during the preceding century, our people developed a fascination for bigness and comfort that carried over into the 20th century.

On that latter point, we built a sprawling network of railroads, now decadent and slow; skyscrapers rose into the clouds; mass production of