Columnist Anderson's apocalyptic version of the 1973-74 oil crisis, its antecedents and aftermath, is, at any rate,...


FIASCO: The Real Story Behind the Disastrous Worldwide Energy Crisis--Richard Nixon's Oilgate

Columnist Anderson's apocalyptic version of the 1973-74 oil crisis, its antecedents and aftermath, is, at any rate, different: Richard Nixon is the culprit, the oil majors are the good guys. As for OPEC, its members should never have been allowed to gain control of their oil. This is the kind of single-cause fault-finding that attributes 1970s runaway inflation (and world ""economic devastation"") to the oil-price hike, and doubles back from there. Thus, Nixon is to blame because when he came into office in 1969, the price of oil was ""dipping toward $1 a barrel"" and the US ""dominated the oil world,"" whereas when he left in 1974, the price was $12 a barrel and the US ""was reduced to the position not only of accepting whatever OPEC decreed"" but also helping the world foot the bills. From this all-engorging argument we drop to the case of Wally Hinkel. The US could have forestalled foreign oil dependence, says Anderson, by quickly developing the Prudhoe Bay and offshore, Santa Barbara oil fields; but for Interior Secretary, Nixon ill-advisedly nominated Alaskan prophet-of-progress Hinkel, bound to arouse environmentalists' suspicions; and instead of lying low before taking office, as Nixon directed his nominees (or ""they will not be in the cabinet""), Hinkel cavalierly dismissed Eskimo and Indian claims to Alaska's federal domain. Then, to gain confirmation, he capitulated totally--promising to maintain the existing freeze on development until Congress was satisfied that the claims had been settled. ""If Nixon had stuck to his guns [and dropped Hinkel], the energy history of the 1970s might have been very different."" On the domestic front generally, Nixon is scored for neither keeping his campaign promise to preserve the oil depletion allowance intact (Humphrey's refusal to make such a commitment, we're told, cost him an early, million-dollar loan that might have won him the election), nor using the depletion allowance to engender new production. On the Middle Eastern front, Nixon failed to back the oil majors' attempt to take a united stand against producers' demands (""in the eyes of the Nixon administration nothing justified an active defense of the oil security structure"")--and failed to respond to ""gigantic gestures,"" by Egypt's Sadat and Saudi Arabia's Faisal, toward settlement with Israel. So the war came, the OPEC embargo took effect, and the world is still paying the price. The failings of US oil policy are notorious, the events have been previously reported; some Pearson-and-Anderson sidelights apart, this is hyperbole and oversimplification. (To be reviewed in the next issue: Robert Sherrill's The Oil Follies of 1970-1980.)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Times Books

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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