Odd-Even Gas Rationing Returns to New Jersey

It's 1973 again in 12 counties - this time Hurricane Sandy, rather than OPEC, is to blame. For those carrying gas cans rather than driving (or pushing) cars to the stations, they're exempt. The military and FEMA will deliver more fuel to NY and NJ.

For those old enough to remember, President Nixon instituted price controls and rationing as a result of long gas lines stemming from the Arab oil embargo. Gov. Chris Christi, citing "the long lines and otherwise disorderly sales of fuel following Hurricane Sandy", took similar action on Nov. 02 by signing "an executive order [PDF]...announcing a state of energy emergency and instituting gas rationing for the purchase of fuel by motorists in 12 counties, starting Saturday, Nov. 03 at noon."

Gov. Christie called "the fuel supply in the state a 'shortage' that could endanger public health, safety and welfare, the rationing will take place in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Monmouth, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties."

"According to the order, all retail gasoline dealers are required to sell fuel for use in a passenger vehicle according to the last number appearing on a vehicle's license plate.

  • Vehicles with license plates, the last number of which is an odd number, can fill up at stations in these counties only on odd-numbered days of the month, the order said.
  • Vehicles with license plates, the last number of which is an even number, can fill up only on even-numbered days." (Zero is treated as even number)

Winnie Hu writes in the The New York Times that New York Harbor, which had been closed due to Hurricane Sandy, "was partly reopened to ships on Thursday (Nov. 01). To help move gasoline faster to customers, (NY Gov. Andrew) Cuomo said he was waiving a requirement that fuel tankers docking in New York register and pay a tax before unloading."

President Obama also addressed the fuel shortage. Writing in the The New York Times, Eric Lipton and Clifford Krauss report that in response to "panic buying by the public...the Defense Department (will) send 24 million gallons of fuel to the region".

The military will go beyond supplying gas stations with fuel. The northeast remains dependent on heating oil as well.

"The Pentagon has also been authorized by the Energy Department and the White House to tap the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve. It will draw as much as two million gallons of diesel fuel - part of the 12 million total - for government emergency responders, helping them to keep electricity generators, water pumps, federal buildings, trucks and other vehicles running. The oil reserve, created by the federal government in 2000, holds 42 million gallons of ultralow-sulfur diesel at terminals in Groton, Conn., and Revere, Mass. It is the first time fuel has been released from the reserve."

The West Coast would have benefited from such a reserve in its recent shortage of gasoline resulting from refinery and distribution break-downs. While some gas stations voluntarily closed down, most stations adjusted their prices accordingly, resulting in a 50 cent price increase the first week of October.

Raising prices in times of shortage was explored by NPR on Nov. 02 in "Some Economists Think Price Gouging Is Good". In fact, some "experts contend it was price controls, not a spike in oil and gas prices, that prompted rationing and gasoline shortages" in the 1970s writes CNN/Money's Chris Isidore on October 13, 2004.

Thanks to Peter Flieg

Full Story: Gov. Christie signs order to ration gas in 12 N.J. counties

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