In the early 70s the world was becoming increasingly dependent on oil. Half the world's electricity was already generated from oil, year in year out vehicles were getting more numerous. Nobody bothered about the price of fuel, hence the cars burning 20 liters per hundred kilometres were a standard.

And suddenly, overnight, this beautiful dream turned into a nightmare. On the 17th of October 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, Arab members of the OPEC decided to stop oil trade with U.S. and Western European countries supporting Israel in the war with Egypt. In the U.S., the price per barrel jumped by 600 percent to $ 35, causing shock and disbelief.

United States were not able to respond. After the escalation of the Vietnam War the position of the U.S. drops in the international arena. Then there are internal problems – the Watergate. OPEC triumphs and negotiates a new pricing mechanism for petroleum in order to obtain greater profits. For the first time, the world realized, how much it is dependant on the energy and the importance of prudent management of it. In addition, in the years 1979–1982 the second oil crisis takes place, resulting from the Iranian revolution.

This situation encouraged the world community to search for new deposits and beginning to exploit them. The oil crisis also led to seeking and using alternative energy sources. One of them was nuclear energy. In the 70s rapid development of nuclear power ensues, but not for long. In many countries it has been paused or stopped after the disasters at the Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986). Events of 1973 mean that coal is back into favour.

Edward Gierek, who after the events in 1970, replaced Comrade Władysław Gomułka as the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, decided to modernize a backward country. Gierek team strategy was quite simple: you have to incur big credits, buy western technology. Modern production lines were to produce goods which would conquer the markets and repay debts.

PRL purchased about 300 licenses for different devices. Once they were manufactured, they had to be sols for hard currency. Unfortunately, the reality was different than wishful thinking of the communist authorities. Apart from a few products like Fiat 126 we were unable to conquer Western markets. "Products based on foreign licenses have export rates of 2 percent, so there is no chance that the licenses are paid off" – Edward Gierek was reported in autumn 1976, by members of a special advisory team. Lack of currency threatened with a collapse of the entire economy.

In this situation, the export to the USSR proved to be even a greater burden. The Soviet Union paid 0,65 of transfer rouble for a dollar buying modern machines in Poland, which required components for production to be brought from the West for hard currency. The lack of hard currency, which resulted in looking for new ways of obtaining them like so called domestic exports, which meant the appearance of Pewex shops, where foreign currency could buy luxury, foreign goods. But then again it was coal and other resources that proved to be a lifeline for the Polish economy at that time.

Poland needed hard currency to repay debts, so the authorities ordered: we have to export more and more coal. Economic condition was favourable. On the world markets, oil plunged into crisis, "the Polish king – coal" began to dominate. It breaks into the United States protected against import of this resource. "The New York Times" announced: "The Polish vessel carrying coal reached the quay of Fall River in Massachusetts, writing a new chapter in the history of commerce. For the first time the United States, which have the largest coal resources in the world have brought the fuel from overseas.

Coal, which will go to power station in Somerset, was loaded on the ship in Gdynia. This announces import from this communist country which until 1976 intends to send five million tons of coal to the U.S. ports per year. Stanislaw Zajac, economic attaché of Polish embassy, said that the second transport of 20 thousand tons is on its way, and the third of 35 thousand tons will arrive to the U.S. in mid-January 1974. Poland can export coal to the United States because it competes successfully with American manufacturers in price and quality. Polish coal cost $ 15 per ton two months ago, now because of the oil crisis, the prices rose to $ 20 per ton."

Go to next article >>

media