Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Needless Federal Price Control Laws And Policies And Not OPEC Created 1970s Gasoline Rationing And Long Gas Station Lines

From Foreign Affairs, "The Myth of U.S. Energy Dependence: What We Got Wrong About OPEC's Oil Embargo" by By Gal Luft and Anne Korin:
Meanwhile, in the United States, another policy had already set the stage for the snaking gas lines and desperate drivers. The Economic Stabilization Act of 1970 gave the president control of wages, rents, and prices across the American marketplace, including the price of fuel. Whereas in 1970, the Mandatory Oil Import Quota Program had kept U.S. oil prices about 2.5 times higher than global prices, and politicians said nothing, the major price spike following OPEC’s 1973 production cuts sent the political and regulatory machinery into a spin. Politically unable to unwind fuel price controls and let the price of gasoline go up in sync with rising global oil prices, the U.S. government had made selling fuel in the United States a losing proposition for some refiners. This caused a reduction in domestic fuel supply. Demand did not drop because the government prevented prices from rising in a way that reflected market realities. The result was shortages at the pump, a spread of panic and uncertainty among buyers, and a doubling down by the government: the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act, passed in November 1973, enabled the administration to embark on Soviet-style allocation and rationing of petroleum products.

Energy security is traditionally defined as the availability of sufficient supply at affordable prices. The collective memory of the embargo and the U.S. response to it were mostly shaped by the events that were perceived to affect availability -- the embargo and the gas lines -- rather than OPEC’s change of the supply-demand balance, which for decades has affected the affordability side of the ledger.

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