Comment re: Elisabetta Bini, Giuliano Garavini, Federico Romero, eds. Oil Shock: The 1973 Crisis and Its Economic Legacy. International Library of Twentieth Century History Series. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016. Reviewed

David Painter's picture

Elisabetta Bini, Giuliano Garavini, Federico Romero, eds. Oil Shock: The 1973 Crisis and Its Economic Legacy. International Library of Twentieth Century History Series. London: I. B. Tauris, 2016. 336 pp. $110.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-78453-556-8. Reviewed by Nigel J. Ashton (London School of Economics)

Published on H-Diplo (April, 2017)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach
https://networks.h-net.org/node/28443/reviews/176004/ashton-bini-and-garavini-and-romero-oil-shock-1973-crisis-and-its

In his review of Bini, Garavini, and Romero, eds, Oil Shock: The Oil Crisis and Its Economic Consequences, Nigel Ashton wrote that "there never really was an actual shortage of oil." He does not cite any sources for this statement, nor does he clarify what he means by an “actual shortage of oil.

According to the statistics compiled by the Federal Energy Administration, Arab crude oil production dropped from 20.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in September 1973 to 15.8 million bpd in November 1973 before recovering to 18.5 million bpd by March 1974 when the embargo and production cutbacks ended. World crude oil production fell from 59.2 million bpd in September 1973 to 54.8 million bpd in November 1973 before recovering to 58.0 million bpd in March 1974.[1]

Energy Information Administration figures, though slightly different, tell a similar story, with world crude oil production dropping from 57.77 million bpd in September 1973 to 53.86 million bpd in November 1973, then rising to 56.37 million bpd in March 1974.[2]

The FEA report also shows that oil consumption in the major consuming areas in April 1974 was 6.3 percent lower than in April 1973. This figure does not take into account that oil consumption had been growing at a rapid rate. If one adjusts for projected consumption growth, US consumption dropped 17 percent; West European 18.6 percent; and Japanese 16 percent.[3]

These figures indicate that there was a reduction in the total amount of oil produced, and that oil consumption fell. I think this is what most people would define as an “actual shortage of oil.”

David S. Painter

Department of History

Georgetown University


[1] Federal Energy Administration, US Oil Companies and the Arab Oil Embargo: The International Allocation of Constricted Supplies (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1975), 7. See also David S. Painter, “Oil and the October War,” in The October 1973 War, 175-93, Asaf Siniver, ed. (London: Hurst, 2013).

[2] US Energy Information Administration, Historical Monthly Energy Review, 1973-1992 (Washington, DC:  Department of Energy, n.d.), 311.

[3] FEA Report, 8-9.

Categories: Review Commentary