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Electricity, gas, oil: when the authorities demanded sacrifices

“We must now prepare for a scenario where we have to do without Russian gas entirely”explained the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, during his interview with TF1 and France 2 on the occasion of July 14.

At the end of the Council of Ministers on July 20, the government spokesperson, Olivier Véran, detailed a series of “little everyday gestures” to save energy, such as turning off the light or Wi-Fi when you leave your living room. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, transmitted to all the members of the government a circular of July 25 “ relating to energy sobriety and the exemplary nature of State administrations” (download here). “International tensions as well as the unavailability of part of the French nuclear fleet impose an unprecedented effort in terms of energy sobriety”, is it written in the preamble of the text. “ This is why I have launched working groups, placed under the authority of the Minister for Energy Transition, to mobilize public administrations as well as businesses. These different players must come up with roadmaps of proposals and recommendations by the end of September, with the aim of achieving 10% energy savings in two years.”continues the circular.

For the executive, energy savings must make it possible to respond to the possible shortage but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These sobriety requirements are reminiscent of the 1970s, during which oil shocks sounded the death knell of the Trente Glorieuses (1945-1975), this period of strong economic expansion and full employment.

1973: Georges Pompidou invites the French to save money

The first crisis is a repercussion of the Yom Kippur War which pitted Israel against a coalition of Arab countries in October 1973. The price of oil has already doubled since 1970, reports At the end of 1973, “the Gulf countries decide, as a form of retaliation against the countries allied to the Jewish state, to reduce their production”, according to the Bercy website. Saudi Arabia even imposes “an embargo of its exports, to the United States in particular”. The price of a barrel of oil is “multiplied by four” over a period of ” a few weeks “. It reaches an amount of 16 dollars.

In an interview granted on December 20, 1973 to the ORTF, the President of the Republic, Georges Pompidou (1969-1974), uses, like Emmanuel Macron on July 14, the verb ” to prepare “.


© Screenshot / INA / ORTF

“It is certain that, if the shortage of oil were to continue for months and years, all countries would end up suffering the direct or indirect consequences. The duty of the government is therefore to prepare to take measures, serious, serious “said the head of state.

“I appeal to the French people’s spirit of economy. Let’s save gas, electricity, heating… and that will be enough to reduce our consumption »adds Georges Pompidou, who would die of cancer on April 2, 1974.

The Prime Minister, Pierre Messmer, is putting in place several temporary measures, detailed by The echoes and BFMTV. For instance :

  • speed limits (120 km/hour on motorways, 90 km/hour on roads);
  • the end of television broadcasts at 11 p.m. excluding weekends and public holidays;
  • a ban on illuminated advertising between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

1976: “We don’t have oil, but we have ideas”

France is still suffering the repercussions of the oil crisis. Under the presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1974-1981), the State mobilizes the population on the theme of energy savings in an advertising campaign around the slogan: “We don’t have oil, but we have ideas. » A formula reminiscent of a May 68 slogan: ” Power to the imagination. »

According to the will of the Head of State, summer time is implemented from the night of March 27 to 28, 1976.

1979: Gaspi hunt

A new oil shock is once again affecting the French economy. “The fall of the Shah of Iran and the Islamic revolution in this country, then a major oil producer, led to a further doubling of the price of a barrel, from 20 to 40 dollars”indicates

“In order to raise public awareness of savings, the Ministry of Industry and the Agency for Energy Savings are launching a major rather playful information campaign […], remained in the memories under the name of Gaspi hunting »says on its site the National Institute of Audiovisual (INA). “This campaign is widely relayed by television through a whole series of advertisements and by television news”specifies the INA.

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