Reduced heating, limited speed… How France coped with the oil shock of 1973

For Bruno Le Maire, the energy crisis linked to the war in Ukraine is “comparable in intensity, in brutality, to the oil shock of 1973”.

Lower the heating by one degree to lower the bill and thus limit the effects of the war in Ukraine on soaring energy prices. According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe), a drop of one degree lowers your energy bill by an average of 7%. According to Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, the energy crisis is “comparable in intensity, in brutality, to the oil shock of 1973”.

That year, in the midst of the Yom Kippur War, the members of OPEC decided to unilaterally increase the price of a barrel of crude oil by 70% and a monthly reduction of 5% in oil production until the evacuation of the occupied territories and recognition of Palestinian rights.

In 1973, the price of a barrel quadrupled in a few months

A few days later, a total embargo on deliveries to the United States, then to the Netherlands, allied states of Israel, is decided. Consequence: between October 1973 and January 1974, the price of a barrel of benchmark crude quadrupled, rising from $2.32 to $9.

Faced with soaring oil prices, many countries must take energy saving measures to avoid shortages. In France, the Prime Minister Pierre Messmer addresses the French November 30, 1973. Beyond the announcement of a vast civil nuclear plan which aims at greater energy independence from oil, via the construction of 13 power stations, measures are taken and directly impact the daily lives of the French .

Limited heating, reduced speed and no TV after 11 p.m.

Thus, to save energy, television broadcasts are stopped from 11 p.m., shop windows are turned off at night, and, above all, the speed limit is lowered. On highways and national, where it was not regulated, the maximum speed is 120 km/h and 90 km/h.

On December 4, 1974, a decree plans to limit heating by capping the temperature at 20 degrees “in premises used for housing, education, offices or receiving the public”, from October 15 to April 15.

In Belgium, no more school on Saturdays

A maximum temperature lowered to “16°C when the duration of non-occupation is equal to or greater than twenty-four hours and less than forty-eight hours; 8°C when the duration of non-occupation is equal to or greater than forty-eight hours “, specifies the decree 71-1025 of December 4, 1974.

Abroad, even more drastic measures are sometimes taken to deal with this surge in the price of oil. In Belgium, the speed is lowered to 100 km/h on motorways and 80 km/h on ordinary roads, the heating of public buildings is limited to 20°C and schools no longer open on Saturday mornings, recalls the RTBF.

In the Netherlands, “car-free Sundays”

The Netherlands, more affected, is launching car-free Sundays, three months during which it is forbidden to drive your private car on Sundays. The measure will be replaced for one month by fuel coupons distributed to motorists. Car-free Sundays also experienced in Switzerland and Belgium, for a few weeks, before lifting the device.

But the most impressive measures are taken in the United Kingdom, where the oil shock comes in parallel with a strike by coal miners, which aggravates the energy crisis in the country.

17 degrees, partial unemployment and power cuts in the UK

The government declares a state of emergency, limits heating to 17 degrees in shops and offices, it becomes forbidden to use electricity to heat restaurants or operate advertisements. Measures tightened on January 1, 1974 with the establishment of the three-day week to limit the energy consumed by companies. Motorists are rationed and power cuts planned at fixed times.

Last October, in its report on energy in 2050, the operator of the electricity network in France, RTE, warned that a neutral carbon balance could not be achieved without a form of sobriety on a national scale.

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Reduced heating, limited speed… How France coped with the oil shock of 1973