A new generation has nearly reached adulthood and numerous politicians have worked their way through the halls of Congresssince the oil embargo of 1973 sent shockwaves through the world's economies. But still, the threat of another cataclysmic oil shortage looms. What have we learned as a nation in the past 15 years?

Memories are too short and the biannual political elections, coupled with the national election this year, make vigorous discussion of a national energy policy unlikely.Politicians are quick to count on the electorate forgetting the threat posed by dependence on foreign energy, or else hope they associate low energy prices with the current political status quo.

In any case, except for the stockpiling of crude oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, virtually nothing has been done to head off a future oil crisis that could economically cripple the country.

Crude oil and petroleum product imports last month supplied about 40 percent of our national needs, and that amount is expected to rise to 50 percent in the next two years as the national economy produces more goods.

With 80 percent of the world's known petroleum reserves scattered about the Eastern Hemisphere, and more than half in Persian Gulf nations, the United States is more vulnerable than ever to another oil embargo.

The fear that history will repeat itself, putting our economic future in uncertain foreign hands is a sobering one, but unfortunately is not receiving enough attention in the national psyche.

It's a normal human response to put the bad times out of mind, but the memory loss of how critical were the times of the first oil embargo, in the winter of 1973-74, and the second one when the Shah of Iran fell in 1979, could have devastating consequences in the future unless action is taken to restore the domestic oil industry and secure new sources of energy.

Will it be there when we need it? Some foresight converted to action now will surely prevent a future nightmare our present lapse of memory seems to be calling for.