Sixty percent of the West's imported oil flows through the Strait of Hormuz. What would happen if that oil were cut off during the current crisis? Experts say that even a total loss of Persian Gulf oil wouldn't be felt immediately. But if the Iran-Iraq fighting spreads to Saudi Arabia, "we might end up with a depression on the magnitude of the 1930s," says Harvard energy specialist Robert Stobaugh.
Dr. Sevinc Carlson of Georgetown University says "there would be a tremendous amount of disruption until the American people could get adjusted." One-fourth of US imported oil comes from the Saudis.
But Dr. Carlson adds that conservation and alternative sources would help offset the loss. "There is a tremendous amount of oil still wasted in the US," she says.