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Crunch time : Energy rationing forces factories to close

Early 1974 was quite literally the darkest period in the UK’s post-war history, when Edward Heath, then prime minister, ordered a national cut in energy consumption as part of his fight with the coal mining unions. Blackouts forced Britons to eat by candlelight and the BBC stopped broadcasting at 10:30 each night. Most businesses had to limit their electricity usage to three days a week.

The crisis has been in the news again this week following a nasty supply crunch in which the UK’s petrol stations have been rationing fuel. Energy prices have been soaring in general, however, after a depletion in inventories over the Covid-19 crisis. Gas prices have increased nearly five times in Europe in the past year, for instance, and prices in the US hit a seven-year high this week, worsened by Hurricane Ida’s disruptive impact on production in the Gulf of Mexico a month ago.

China too is in the midst of an energy crisis, with widespread shortages of electricity. With natural gas prices reaching record levels, there has been a sudden scramble for coal, where stockpiles ...


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