Oh, back in the 1970!!! I don't mean that the winters were any colder than in prior decades. Â I mean to say that those were the winters after the first and second oil shocks--BBrrrrrrrrrrr". Â America and the world simply had bad housing design, bad insulation, and not enough money put away for fuel rises.
For those people born in later years--i.e. in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s--when most of the world responded to oil and fuel price increases of the 1970s by increasing insulation in our walls and increasing insulation around windows--it will be hard to comprehend how those cold 1970s houses (and cold winter days and nights) led many of my generation (and their parents) to seek security in many of places. Â "The oil shocks of the 1970s shook the global order the US had created since World War II, and helped usher in the age of Reagan and Thatcher. "
Even after Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency of the United States, the cold continued for most of America for a few years. Â This is because the American peoples were quite unlike corporations. Â We received too little support from our government in the 1980s to transform our homes and our apartments into more heating efficient units. I recall that I spent one very cold January in that decade in Chicago undertaking what my college roommates called "urban camping".
Eight of us from my
alma mater spent Â January of 1983
studying in the Urban Life Center
and living in Woodlawn (South side of Chicago)--as
the unemployment rate for black American youth hit all time highs. Â During that month, we rented a 3rd
floor flat in a hard-pressed urban inner-city-America neighborhood. Â It was a very cold winter--with the usual freezing
winds coming off the Chicago
The reason we called it "urban camping" back in 1983 is that the ancient and cavernous apartment we had rented across from the University of Chicago had no functioning heaters. Â We had, instead, brought in a gas burner--but this large flame-throwing-heater could only heat one room and the hallway between the bedrooms and the kitchen. Â We 8 froze most of the time--even when cooking in the kitchen. Â Naturally, this ice-box-like cold was all due to the poor insulation in the old structure we were living in.
Since that decade, I have experienced other cold winters--for example, currently, I am living in an unheated dormitory and school on Matsu Island of Taiwan, i.e. 20km from China. Â (Only a few structures on the whole island of nearly 2000 inhabitants have space heaters.)
Likewise, I lived in the 1980s on an ancient French farm with a humongous farmhouse. Â (My room had a beautiful 19th century stove on that farm but the poor family I was staying in could not afford to heat with it.) Only one living-room was occasionally heated all that winter. Â
Likewise, in the early 1990s, Â I lived for two years in Japan in the region of what is called "Snow Country"--brrrrrr". Â By that time, I had luckily received an insulated flat and a small space heater for those winters. Â In this--and in all these other cases of cold winters experienced by me--I was thinking that God and our Global Destiny was preparing me for even colder winters--i.e. as fuel prices from the 1970s onwards were expected to continue to rise.
However, by the 1990s (post-Gulf War I days), fuel prices
around the world were lower than they had been for decades. Â That is, with
the rate of inflation calculated in, the world was able to use cheaper-and-cheaper
fuel. Â This--if you recall--helped spawn
great economic boons in the USA
later that decade, where the economies use a lot more energy per capita than
anywhere else on the planet. Â In short,
even as insulation improved in housing, Americans were paying often less for
fuels than their parents had 20 years earlier.
2000, autos were not improving in efficiency very greatly in the same
period. Â For example, I recall that the
early Volkswagen Rabbit (Golf) diesels of the late 1970s got EPA 54 miles to the gallon. By the late
1990s, recent Volkswagen Golf's didn't get anywhere near 50mpg. Moreover, only
a few countries, such as Germany,
were busily focusing on building-up both  good fuel efficient housing design
(insulation/double windows, etc.) while  promoting alternative energies.