Friday, March 04, 2022

Should we bring back gasoline rationing?

Given inflation in gas prices, I've seen the idea of gas rationing being floated again. I remember the days of gas rationing in the 1970s. There was even price and wage controls tried back then; under President Nixon; a Republican! Imagine that.

Those ideas have lost popularity, but could be worth reconsidering as a more fair way to allocate limited resources than just having them go to the highest bidder. Before my time, there was rationing during World War II.

Rationing fell out of favor as free market advocates argued that more oil could be produced if the price was allowed to rise. Rising prices would lead to more drilling, fracking and other innovations in oil production.

That idea worked, to some extent, as supply increased and the price of oil went down relative to overall inflation.

Besides the war, now we face a different problem. Not so much supply and demand, but global warming. We still have lots of oil shale, tar sands and coal that can even be gasified, but now we face an atmosphere that is warming.

The atmosphere doesn't give us an upfront cost, like an oil well that goes dry. Carbon can be dumped into the atmosphere at little cost, but the long term cost is devastating.

Maybe the concept of creating an artificial cost; such as a carbon tax, or rationing is needed.

Ideas, like rationing, do crimp freedom and prosperity so that is part of the reason why they have fallen from favor. It's the god of prosperity.

We may have become slaves to the god of prosperity.

I'm remembering the 1970s with some nostalgia. Not just the music and my days at Western Washington University's Gay People's Alliance. I was younger back then, but in many ways, my life and my health hasn't changed much since then. I sometimes feel like a Peter Pan.

I'm still remembering the pre Ronald Reagan times with some nostalgia. Back then, I thought we were running out of oil. The idea of rising prices bringing more supply had not entered my mind, that much, during the days when President Carter was in the White House.

It seemed like the solar panels and bicycles being demonstrated at a solar energy fair were the wave of the future. Carter was on board with his famous call for wearing Cardigan Sweaters; rather than turning up the thermostat.

A time of idealism versus realism, but there was also the "Carter Synfuel Program." I think, Synfuel was getting more of the lion's share of Federal money, versus a few solar panels. Synfuels were seen as a road to American Energy independence.

Back then, it was thought that oil shale had to be mined, brought to the surface and cooked in ovens to get out the oil. Prices would have to rise.

Then innovators came up with the invention of sideways drilling where the shale could be fracked in the ground for less bother. Oil drips out, via gravity, to sideways pipes under the shale; like collecting water in drain tile.

The free market economists held sway as oil production rose again.

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