The Energy Crunch: Dark Days Ahead?

Costly gasoline, tight supplies, rolling blackouts -- this crisis could imperil the economy

Vice-President Dick Cheney tapped into the nation's black mood on Apr. 30 when he declared that the U.S. faces a "present crisis" in energy. Heads nodded all around: There's a nasty feeling that the bad old 1970s are back. Gasoline prices have zoomed to record highs as overstretched refiners struggle to cope. In hard-hit Chicago, gasoline prices rose 25 cents in April alone -- and full-service premium goes for $2.46 a gallon downtown (see BW Online, 5/4/01, "A Summer of Gas Pains"). Natural-gas inventories remain tight, raising concerns about another price spike like the one that skewered consumers last winter.

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