Saturday, September 11, 2010

Transport Fuel Rationing in the USA: Part 7 Past gasoline rationing plans in the USA.

(A gasoline rationing coupon page from WWII

During WWII, gas rationing (actually imposed to reduce domestic rubber use) was done according to a classification scheme:

Drivers who used their cars for work that was deemed essential to the war effort were classified differently and received additional stamps. There were five classifications:
• Class A drivers were allowed only 3 gallons of gasoline per week.
• Class B drivers (factory workers, traveling salesmen) received 8 gallons per week.
• Class C drivers included essential war workers, police, doctors and letter carriers.
• Class T included all truck drivers.
• Class X was reserved for politicians and other “important people.”

The last three classifications were not subject to the restrictions.
Gasoline rationing briefly occurred in 1974:

And everyone knew the last number of their vehicle license plate. You had to. The oil embargo slapped on the United States and Holland in late 1973 by several OPEC nations in the Middle East had gas pumps running dry by January 1974. Mandatory gas rationing was the order of the day. When stations had gas, they followed a rationing plan that allowed cars with even-numbered license plates to buy gas on certain days. On other days, only plates ending in odd numbers were served.

The embargo was political payback for the U.S. and other Western allies supporting Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Although the embargo lasted only six months, it rumbled through the American economy like nothing since World War II.  
In 1980, following the Iranian hostage crisis, and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the government contemplated the standby motor fuel rationing plan:
The hostage situation in Tehran and the recent Soviet invasion of Afghanistan have continued to provoke further turmoil and unrest in the Middle East, an area which supplies over 60 percent of the petroleum consumed by the Western industrial nations. The beginning of the 1980's, therefore, is characterized by insecure foreign sources of petroleum and a potential threat of gasoline shortages, underscoring the need for the government to have in place a Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan as soon as possible so as to be prepared to manage a severe gasoline shortfall. approved plan would remain in standby status and could be imposed only if the President found that putting the plan into effect is required by a severe energy supply interruption or is necessary to comply with obligations of the United States under the international energy program. EPCA sec. 201(d) defines a severe energy supply interruption as a national energy supply shortage which the President determines has resulted or is likely to result in a 20 percent shortfall, with respect to projected normal demand, of gasoline and middle distillate fuels for a period of at least 30 days. ...  
Of course, all of these past instances occurred at times when the USA’s gasoline use was much lower than today and/or the USA’s domestic oil production was higher than today.

So what would gas rationing look like if it happen today?

After running through this exercise with me, it should be clear to you by now that gasoline rationing would have to start quickly after a Disruption of the type that I have hypothesized in this series. The SPR, or, re-tooling oil refineries to make more diesel, will not save us.  Moreover re-tooling would reduce the gasoline ration to households.

You can see from the calculations in Part 4 what the ration would have to average: about 1-2 gallons of gas per household per day, depending upon the amount of continued Western Hemisphere imports.

I don't care to speculate here exactly how the gasoline would get divvied up, and who would get priority, after the critical uses are served. I would direct you to the standby motor fuel rationing plan for an example of how it might work. I expect that the government already a plan in place, or at least, they better have.

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