Golden Sands: Feb. 15, 1973
SIPPING CARDAMOM- flavored coffee in Saudi Arabia, FORBES’ Stephen Quickel noticed how “Saudi men … go to their jobs in traditional Arab robes and headdress,” while women donned full-length black veils. More startling were the kingdom’s cane-wielding religious police, who “hustle off to the mosques anyone who shows signs of playing hooky” from services.
Just as apparent to Quickel: how rich Riyadh might become. By 1976, he estimated, the kingdom would pass the U.S. as the leading oil producer. Saudi Arabia had nearly quadruple America’s proven reserves, and production had risen 27% to 5.7 million barrels a day from ’71 to ’72. Saudi oil revenue, Quickel figured, would soon hit $8 billion (roughly $43 billion today). Its wealth would then imbue it with “power that promises to be one of the most decisive—and potentially disruptive—forces in global economics for the balance of the century.”
That October, Saudi-led OPEC imposed an oil embargo as punishment for America having armed Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Oil skyrocketed—up 350% to $11.69 a barrel ($63 today) by January— and kept rising even after the embargo was lifted in March 1974, worsening U.S. inflation and overall economic woes. fast forward