Some of you reading this will remember the gas rationing lines of the 1970s, when gasoline prices climbed to the high double digits and threated to exceed one dollar per gallon! That was largely due to the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and subsequent tightening of oil supplies to squeeze the market. Gasoline was scarce at the pumps at times, and rationing was periodically put into place to control the supply side.
Thanks to Superstorm Sandy, we have gas rationing in New Jersey of a different kind. Very few gas stations are open, and those that do have incredibly long lines. Some are servicing patrons only for gallon or five gallon cans used to feed hungry generators, as many areas are still without power. In the photo below I took this afternoon, police had to detour traffic because a line of cars spanning a mile blocked the passage of cars in the opposite direction. The little white sign next to the “Do Not Enter” sign reads “Gas Line” with an arrow to the right. The line snakes around for several blocks in both directions.
People have generally been courteous, but tempers have begun to flare. It isn’t uncommon to see Police cars patrol around these lines to prevent cars from cutting in. One can install a standby generator that would powers the home or office fed by a natural gas line, but the cost of that is around $10,000. So for the forseeable future, we have unintended gas rationing, mediated by the laws of the jungle, as teens and young adults dot the floors of malls and Starbucks desperately trying to stay warm and connected.