March 28, 2017, 12:15 PM - 01:45 PM
Panic at the Pump: The Energy Crisis and the Transformation of American Politics in the 1970s
On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, the Strauss Center welcomed Meg Jacobs, Research Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, as part of the Brumley Speakers Series to discuss her new book Panic at the Pump: The Energy Crisis and the Transformation of American Politics in the 1970s.
Jacobs’ lecture explored how Americans experienced the energy crises in 1973 and 1979 that resulted from foreign policy troubles in the Middle East and were characterized by soaring gasoline prices, shortages, and long lines. Painting a vivid portrait of the political landscape of the time, Jacobs detailed Presidents Nixon’s and Carter’s attempts to manage the crisis as well as key legislation and political maneuvering in response to the crisis.
The Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973 allowed the government to decide how much oil each retailer would be allocated, and could charge and sell. President Carter’s approach included calling for Americans to reduce their use of gasoline, creating the Department of Energy, and appointing the first Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger.
Jacobs described the clashing political factions of the time, from the aging New Deal left and younger Environmentalist Democrats, to conservatives opposed to government regulation. Jacobs argues that placing the energy crisis front and center reveals a great deal about the 1970s beyond the policy challenge.
In her view, the country’s reaction to the crisis was indicative as a larger shift in American political culture from liberalism to conservatism, as well as a perceived delegitimization of the government. Jacobs also explored the fallout of the effect of the crisis in subsequent decades, highlighting the fact that the first Executive Order President Reagan signed upon taking office got rid of Nixon-era gasoline price controls.
More photos from the event can be found at our Flickr here.
Meg Jacobs is a Research Scholar in the Woodrow Wilson School teaching courses in public policy and history. She received her Ph.D. in 1998 from the University of Virginia and was an associate professor of history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been a fellow at the Harvard Business School, the Charles Warren Center, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.
Her recent book looks at why American politicians failed to devise a long-term energy policy. She is the author of Pocketbook Politics: Economic Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America, which was published with Princeton University Press and won the Organization of American Historians' 2006 prize for the best book on modern politics. She has recently published Conservatives in Power: The Reagan Years, 1981-1989, Bedford/St.Martin's (2010).