On Monday, amid reports of attacks on Nigerian oil installations and increasing market activity, the cost of oil started inching its way upward to $79.41 per barrel. For students of the past 30 years, this process should seem eerily familiar.
In the early 1970s, the United States received approximately 6 percent of its oil from the Middle East. However, when the Yom Kippur war led to a massive OPEC oil embargo, gas prices quadrupled. The ensuing gas crisis, which crippled the economy and spelled the end of gargantuan cars, has generally been blamed on OPEC's actions. However, the statistics of the day suggest that other forces may have been at work in changing America's gas expenditures. In 1973, oil company profits rose by up to 700 percent; not long after, oil execs gave themselves massive 20 percent raises.