When major appliances need repairs, I usually don’t fix them if they are over 10 years old. I replace them. Tenants sometimes ask me why I don’t repair old appliances. That happened just recently. I replaced a 15-year old refrigerator that needed a new door gasket. That seemed wasteful and bad for the environment to my tenants, sending a 15-year old refrigerator to the dump that could be repaired. This isn’t because I don’t think about the environmental consequences of my business decisions. I think about that a lot. I used to fix old appliances, but not anymore. And here’s why…..

The 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. In 1973, a number of Arab countries launched a coordinated invasion of Israel on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. It became known as the Yom Kippur War. The U.S. and many other Western nations supported Israel in this war. In retaliation, Arab oil exporting nations declared a oil embargo against the West. The embargo lasted for over 6 months and led to a very serious economic crisis in the U.S. The wholesale price of oil went up by 400%. Gas stations rationed gasoline, if they had any, and many didn’t have any. People couldn’t get to work. Trucks couldn’t deliver food to supermarkets, etc. Because of the crisis, Congress passed a series of laws in 1973 and 1974 designed to make the U.S. less dependent on imported oil. The best known of these laws was the one that required automobile manufacturers make cars more fuel efficient, with deadlines phased in over a number of years. You have probably seen the stickers on new cars that show you how many miles per gallon a car gets. Well, we didn’t have those stickers before the Arab Oil Embargo. There was no way for car buyers to know how many miles per gallon a car got. Once the government starting testing cars, they found that the average new car in the U.S. got only 11 miles per gallon in 1973. Today it is 25 miles a gallon. In 1973, new houses were not required to have insulation in the walls or attic. Now they do, also as a result of the Arab Oil Embargo. Another law mandated that manufacturers of major appliances make them more energy-efficient. A refrigerator sold today in the U.S. uses 75% less electricity than one of the same size made in 1973. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? The motors are more efficient, and the insulation and door seals are much better than they used to be. This is why I don’t repair old refrigerators. Washers, dryers, kitchen stoves, water heaters, and dishwashers are now all far more energy-efficient than they were in 1973 as well. During the Yom Kippur War, both sides suffered heavy losses, but neither side won. The U.N. negotiated a cease fire, leaving both sides about where they were at the start of the war. I think the real winner of this war was the American public, because Congress would never have passed these dramatic energy efficiency laws if it hadn’t been for the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. Although most Americans have never heard of the Yom Kippur War or the resulting Arab Oil Embargo, that war had a huge impact on the way we use energy in the United States today.