Energy crisis looms large in the 1970s

With the very first issue of 1970, EL&P was already examining one of the two major stories of the decade. Since Watergate was yet to come, Ken Owens, then Generation Editor, discussed the possible fuel crisis on the horizon.

“Double trouble is brewing as pollution control laws affect fuel use just as fuel supplies get tight,” he penned.

“Coal, gas and oil are not coming out of the ground fast enough to feed all the utility boilers. Coal stockpiles are dwindling to half their normal size and gas reserves have dropped to a point that caused John Nassikas, FPC chairman to say, ‘Critical issues confront the gas industry.’ Many utilities have found the entire fuel situation critical,” Owens began his editorial.

And as that editorial began, so began the 1970s for Electric Light & Power, but the fuel crisis wasn’t the only thing on the minds of the industry and the magazine. We questioned how to “sell” transmission expansion, if regulatory issues could keep power flowing and whether the public is really willing to pay for cleaner energy.

“Regardless of what electric utilities think of conservation and environmental protection proposals, industry inevitably must assume the additional capital and operating costs considered necessary to improve the ‘quality of life,'” wrote Arthur Stegeman, Editor and Publisher. “At this point the only question seems to be: who pays these added costs and how?”

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Between the questions about costs and the lack of fuel, the energy industry in the 1970s was experiencing serious growing pains, and the articles of EL&P of that decade reflect those ouchies. Questions flew: Would the industry be able to press on? Would the coal and gas continue to flow? Were research and development efforts failing the needs of society?

A society in flux produces a magazine in flux, and even though EL&P celebrated 50 years of publication in 1972, its content, style and format continued to keep up with the times. We talked about “sub-stations with sex appeal,” changed our format to the familiar tabloid size, received a congratulatory letter from President Nixon on our anniversary (which we ran with a nice color snapshot) and even gave predictions about what the year 2000 would bring to the electric utility industry, which appears to have been taken straight from a very clear crystal ball.

“The most profound effect on electric utilities through the year 2000 will probably be a completely new restructuring of the industry,” the article states, going on to predict that there will be a small number of “super G&T” [generation and transmission] organizations.

“Utilities as we know them today will be relegated to the distribution function,” the article concluded.

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