Monday, October 22, 2012

Road Trip to Disaster: How Cars Lead to Conflicts with the Middle East

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With more and more people driving every day, the amount of gasoline that Americans use is increasing rapidly. There was a time when oil was not as important to the United States, but the invention of cars has led to the need for oil which has caused tension and conflicts between the United States and oil exporters. Nearly every continent harbors oil, but the majority of U.S. oil comes from the Middle East. The U.S. has become very reliant on Middle Eastern oil, and it is this dependence that makes the relationship very fragile. Since the Middle East knows that the U.S. needs their oil so badly, they have a lot of power over the U.S., they use this power to manipulate the U.S. and to get what they want, whether it be money or war support. When the automobile was first invented, the inventor probably did not know that his invention would be the cause of such a powerful relationship.

The actual invention of the automobile did not happen quickly. The first car did not even use oil to run at first, it used steam. It was built in France by Nicolas Joseph Cugnot in 176. Although it was the first officially registered car, it was not efficient, only reaching speeds of kilometers per hour at its fastest. Later, in 1807, Francois Isaac de Rivaz from Switzerland invented the revolutionary internal combustion engine and a car to go with it, the vehicle itself was highly unsuccessful, but the engine sparked ideas from other people. In 1864, the first gasoline powered engine was invented in Austria by Siegfried Marcus. It was able to reach speeds of 10 mph, and was considered to be the forerunner of the modern automobile. His idea was expanded on by multitudes of inventors including Nicolous August Otto. In 1876 he built the first practical gas powered engine. Its four-stroke engine was universally adapted for all liquid-fuel automobiles. When the automobile was finally made practical, it became appealing to the public eye, so Rene Pangard and Emile Levassor decided to manufacture cars for the public in France (Bellis). They improved upon the design of the car and were the first to move the engine to the front of the car. The vehicles used gasoline to power them.

As cars became more popular, the public wanted them to be more readily available, and within their price range. In 101, Ransome Eli Olds invented the concept of the assembly line and produced 45 “Curved Dash Olds”. Although he was the leading automobile manufacturer from 101 to 104, the car was still not available to everyone since only the rich could afford it. Then came Henry Ford. He is perhaps the most credited for inventing the car. While he did not invent the automobile, he did perfect the assembly line and popularized cars with the middle class. He was able to make the car cheaper, by manufacturing it quicker. From 108 to 17, there were 15 million Model Ts manufactured (Bellis).The need for gasoline was beginning to rise since there were so many people who owned vehicles. Today, there are about 58 million new vehicles built each year worldwide (Encarta). Each of these vehicles get anywhere from 16 to 0 miles per gallon on average and most cars hold from 10 to 0 gallons of gasoline.

Americans drive .4 trillion miles a year, which is why the demand for gasoline is so high. The United States itself only has a limited amount of fossil fuel to make oil, not nearly enough to satisfy the population’s needs, therefore, the U.S. has to import from other oil rich nations. Since the majority of the world’s oil is located in the Middle East, that is where it is imported from. The main countries that produce oil are Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi. The countries have created an organization called OAPEC, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. They formed the union so that there could be regulations on the oil that was exported instead of just charging any amount that they wanted. Each year, more vehicles are on the road, so the need for foreign oil is always increaing.

The Arab countries that export the oil to the United States know how important their oil is, and they can use that knowledge to manipulate the U.S. On October 6, 17, the Yom Kippur War broke out between Israel and two neighboring countries, Egypt and Syria. The Soviet Union was backing up Egypt and Syria with supplies and money, so the United States did the same for Israel. In order to end the United States sending arms to Israel, 11 members of OAPEC met and made a policy of oil production and export cuts. They decided that they would reduce crude oil production by 5 % each month until Israel withdrew from the territories occupied since the war began. They also announced that there would be a complete embargo on oil shipments to the U.S. ( ). Then, a month later, they announced that oil productions would be cut 5%. Along with the cut, the other members of OAPEC announced that they were raising oil prices by 17% and the taxes on oil would be raised 70% (

The U.S. was hit hard and economic crisis began to settle. The cut back on oil, combined with raised prices caused severe measures to be made by the president, Richard Nixon. These measures included a ban of gasoline sale on sundays, a lowered national speed limit at 55 mph, a 5% reduction in jet fuel supplies, and a reduction of outdoor lighting, especially Christmas lights ( The outrageous cost of gas reduced the demand for cars, and as a result many jobs were lost. Although the embargo and the cuts were extremely detrimental to the economy and life in general in the United States, they did not make the U.S. stop supporting Israel, which is why they were imposed in the first place. The U.S. did suffer for their choice of supporting Israel, though, which is what OAPEC was trying for.

Another way that OAPEC manipulates the U.S. is for money. In 1, to boost fuel prices, OAPEC cut its output by 4 million barrels a day, the U.S. uses about 17.4 million barrels a day ( The results were immediate, and prices began to rise. Then, in 000, fuel prices reached an all time high of $1.68 per gallon. Thankfully, a war did not come from this rise in cost, but tensions with the Middle East rose with the price.

As of today, there does not seem to be an end in sight with the rising prices of gasoline, nor does the public seem to want to do anything about it. Sport Utility Vehicles have become a very popular car in America, totaling about 5% of all the vehicles on the roads. These SUVs use a lot of gas, and are becoming increasingly popular. As long as people keep using so much gas, then OAPEC will always have economic control over the U.S. and there will always be tension. A way of ridding America of this tension would be to switch to hybrid or electric cars which use significantly less gasoline or none at all. Although the automobile has come a long way since Nicolas Joseph Cugnot registered the first one back in 176, it still has a long ways to

go until Middle Eastern nations and the United States of America are at complete peace.

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