June 27, 2007

Gas Rationing The Last Straw?

Thanks to OPEC and a series of domestic-policy blunders by the Carter Administration, I spent a significant portion of my first year with a driver's license waiting in long lines to get gasoline for the family car. Now an OPEC nation has to ration gasoline, and its citizens have reacted in a different manner -- by burning down the gasoline stations in protest. Iranians may have reached the tipping point with the mullahcracy and the international sanctions they have brought upon the people:

Angry Iranians have torched petrol stations in protests against the sudden imposition of fuel rationing in one of the world’s most oil rich nations.

The rationing was announced on Tuesday only three hours before it was due to begin at midnight, leading to long queues at service stations as Iranians rushed out to fill up before the clampdown kicked in.

In the capital, youths set a car and petrol pumps ablaze at a station in the residential Pounak area of northwestern Tehran, throwing stones and shouting angry slogans denouncing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who came to power in an election based largely on his promises to improve the Islamic republic’s faltering economy.

In 1979, Americans faced a similar kind of rationing, directly and indirectly imposed by the government. Thanks to asinine windfall-tax schemes and economic penalties for development as well as OPEC pressures, the oil industry could not produce gasoline in enough abundance to fill the pumps, and we had to limit our purchases. California and other states imposed an odd-even rule based on the last numeral in the license plate; even numbers could only purchase gasoline on even-numbered days, and odd on odd-numbered days -- and usually one could only buy eight gallons or less.

This created long morning lines as people had to make more return visits to gas stations, and the stations themselves would frequently run out of product within a few hours. Waits of two or more hours were not unusual, but the most fascinating aspect was the lack of violence or significant protest. For the most part, they were friendly affairs, generating a sense of camaraderie. The only exception in my experience came when one idiot tried to jump the line by forcing his van between two cars that had been in place for over an hour. Several men raced out of their cars and tried to overturn the van, but the driver managed to race off before they killed him.

Not so in Iran, apparently. Although the ruling clique approved the rationing three months ago, they hadn't announced when it would start, apparently hoping they could avoid it at some point by beating the sanctions. They waited until a few hours before it began to announce the start of the rationing program, infuriating the people. They also have imposed a ration-card system but haven't fully distributed the smart cards that allow the pumps to operate, cutting off the supply altogether to many drivers.

It's not just the sanctions, either. The Ahmadinejad government has refused to raise the subsidized price of gasoline from 19 cents per litre, or roughly 75 cents per gallon. That creates more demand than supply, and advocates of the free market have urged Ahmadinejad to allow the prices to go up to balance the equation, but Ahmadinejad's populist platform won't allow it. Instead, he has rationed gasoline to the point where individuals can only purchase 26 gallons per month, and taxi drivers are limited to 211 gallons.

The schadenfreude of seeing an OPEC nation with half-mile-long gas lines is rather compelling. It's only surpassed by the hope it brings that the Iranians may finally have tired enough of the mullahcracy to make the changes necessary to restore Iran to some semblance of sanity, and to send the radical Islamists packing.


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» Is Tehran Burning? from Ed Driscoll.com
"With virtually no warning, the Islamic Regime declared gas rationing in oil-rich Iran, sparking furious protests across the country — and Pajamas Media has video of the angry crowds setting gas stations on fire".... [Read More]

Comments (14)

Posted by Cybrludite [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 27, 2007 6:34 AM

And just imagine what would happen if we were to take out their only refinery in retaliation for the Iranian government's support of the terrorists in Iraq...

Posted by swabjockey05 | June 27, 2007 8:08 AM

Cybr, I doubt the UN would authorize...or approve of "retaliation"...probably wouldn't be "Legal".

Posted by rbj | June 27, 2007 8:08 AM

Cyberludite, all that needs to happen is for there to be an "accident" at the refinery. A few well placed charges of C-4. No need to use a cruise missle. Much better for plausible denial.

Posted by ajacksonian | June 27, 2007 8:17 AM

No need to 'attack the refineries': the regime has done that on its own. This is an *outcome* of years of mismanagement, inability to deal with the modern world, and Japan making it well known that they were not going to support the regime and did not want their partners to do so either on basic infrastructure investment in Iran's petroleum industry. Five or six years of no competent repairs on the refineries and what do you get?

It is starting to look like revolution in the streets.

Posted by MarkW | June 27, 2007 8:33 AM

During the 70's, people were told that the gas lines were caused by the Arabs, and the people believed it. So their anger was not directed at our govt, or at our oil companies.

In Iran, the oil companies are owned and operated by the govt and the people are well aware of who is causing the shortages.

Posted by billhedrick | June 27, 2007 8:52 AM

MarkW, that is a very good point. We SHOULDN'T attacck/sabotage the refinery. Even with plausible deniability. Imadinnerjacket will blame us even if it's a real accident, and enough Iranians will believe him.

Posted by Mark | June 27, 2007 9:42 AM

"Several men raced out of their cars and tried to overturn the van, but the driver managed to race off before they killed him."

Ahh, the good ol' days. I came close to getting the same treatment. I got all the way to the pump, got my gas, went in to pay, came back out and found I'd locked my keys in the car (blocking the pump). Luckily, only one side of the pump was open so the attendant opened the other side and saved me from having a bunch of angry people roll my car end over end out of the way.

Posted by courtneyme109 | June 27, 2007 10:14 AM

Gee, maybe someone ought to clue Mike Hirsch of Newsweek 'bout al this.

He's written two stories - one last week, one this week at newsweeks website. According to him, the Islamic Republic is a friendly, colorful, almost Disneyworld like land of peace, love and tolerance. All Iranians show love and respect for the friendly imams and their nigh despotic rule. And not one mention of the religious police, the women's dress code police or the secret police.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 27, 2007 12:46 PM

The key to sanctions against Iran has always been gasoline, 40% of it coming from other countries. The Mullahs will have to explain why building a nuclear program, and not refineries, was such a great idea. No need for a military strike that will unify the country around the theocracy, gas is the Achilles heal that will bring them down.

Posted by Kevin Fleming | June 27, 2007 1:30 PM

Maybe if we took over the Iranian embassy and marched the hostages in front of TV cameras, Europe would like us.

And the leader of the attack could became president in 30 years.

Posted by Neo | June 27, 2007 2:12 PM

The most obvious question is ..

if the Iranians have a vulnerability by being so unable to produce gasoline from crude, why aren't they investing in new refineries, instead of nuclear energy ?

Posted by Mike | June 27, 2007 2:52 PM

Let us not forget the issue that, more than any other, will resonate with the Iranian public: The willingness, indeed, eagerness of the government to murder anyone it perceives as threatening. It's easy for American to speak about throwing the bums out, but Iranians find themselve, daily, being beaten, jailed, tortured, even killed for such crimes as wearing the wrong clothing, having an un-Islamic hairstyle, or, if female, wearing nail polish.

Translate that propensity to violence to people actively rioting against the government, and do you even have to ask if the government would hesitate to slaughter citizens in the streets in huge numbers?

No, there will be no neat, bloodless, democratic takeover by an aroused citizenry. This will become much more bloody before any change in Iranian leadership takes place, and it won't happen unless we do it.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 27, 2007 3:20 PM

Mike, domestic turmoil does not necessarily mean a revolution and a democratic government, but it does mean that the Iranians are vulnerable. You have a considerable number of unemployed in the country with little to loose if they go after the government,. If riots and civil disturbances spread, despite their police powers, they have a problem. The Mullahs are painfully aware that the police state did not help the Shah in the end when things got out of control. Where our interest is in is getting Iran to the point that they make concessions on their nuclear program in order to get gas supplies restored and the internal turmoil under control.

Posted by Bernie | June 28, 2007 3:39 AM

You're all missing the point; they’re rationing “carbon emissions”. Iran is now on the leading edge of the fight against global warming. Al Gore will be proud.