The 1973 oil embargo of the U.S. by members of the Organization of Petroleum Explorting Countries (OPEC) resulted in long lines at the gas station. Petroleum was rationed, so that drivers with even-numbered license plates could get gas on certain days, and odd-numbered on others.

Photograph by David Falconer, Environmental Protection Agency, courtesy National Archives

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  • On October 17, 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a group of the world’s 12 leading oil-exporting nations, decided to reduce the amount of oil available to the United States. This “oil weapon” was used in response to U.S. assistance to Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war (also called the Yom Kippur War).

    In one year, the price of oil in the U.S. increased fourfold, largely due to the embargo. Gasoline was rationed and drivers faced long lines at gas stations. In an attempt to conserve energy, year-round daylight savings time was implemented for 1974. Homes and businesses reduced energy use by turning off unused machines and turning out lights. The embargo caused a surge of interest in solar power, wind power, and other alternative energy sources.

    In 1974, OPEC announced the end of the embargo, and oil consumption in the United States went back up.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    conserve Verb

    to save or use wisely.

    consumption Noun

    process of using goods and services.

    daylight savings Noun

    practice of moving one hour forward in the spring (spring forward) and one hour backward in the fall (fall back) to gain an extra hour of daylight.

    embargo Noun

    to outlaw trade of a certain good or service, or to outlaw trade from a certain place.

    energy Noun

    capacity to do work.

    gasoline Noun

    liquid mixture made from oil and used to run many motor vehicles.

    implement Verb

    to carry out plans.

    nation Noun

    political unit made of people who share a common territory.

    Encyclopedic Entry: nation
    oil Noun

    fossil fuel formed from the remains of marine plants and animals. Also known as petroleum or crude oil.

    OPEC Noun

    Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. As of winter 2018, OPEC members are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

    ration Verb

    to supply people with a fixed amount of food or another good or service.

    reduce Verb

    to lower or lessen.

    solar power Noun

    rate of producing, transferring, or using solar energy.

    wind power Noun

    rate of producing, transferring, or using wind energy, usually measured in watts.