WASHINGTON During the gas shortages of the '70s, some states came up with a plan to cut the long gas lines. Drivers whose license plates ended in an even number could buy gas only on even-numbered days of the month; drivers whose plates ended in an odd number only on odd-numbered days.
On paper, this was nonsense. It did nothing to affect either supply or demand, but in a crazy way it actually worked and did reduce the lines at the pumps.
So deeply is the automobile woven into our way of life that anything that affects the price of gas brings out a deep streak of craziness in the American people.
The Associated Press reports that the number of accidents involving golf carts is rising because people are using them to drive around town as an alternative to their gas-guzzling cars.
Their low gas mileage has badly hurt the sale of big SUVs like Chevy's hulking Suburban, and dealers are desperate to get rid of them. The Wall Street Journal, normally a source of sage economic counsel, advises that now is the time to buy one; just don't drive. The great thing about a big SUV is, if the economy totally tanks, you can always live in it.
In the '70s, normally sane people proposed that we offer OPEC a deal, a bushel of wheat for a barrel of oil. Such was the anxiety of the times that no one pointed out that we were offering the inglorious proposition to the oil producers: pump or starve. Now, thanks to our energy policy of turning food into fuel, we can't really afford the wheat even if someone would take the deal.
USA Today reports that Holly Springs, Ga., is adding a $12 fuel "surcharge" to their speeding tickets to cover the cost of pulling the motorist over. Every other speed trap in the country is sure to copy this because the only way Holly Springs doesn't come out ahead on the deal is if the cruiser, getting, say, 15 miles per gallon, chases the speeder for 45 miles.
A man in Orlando, Fla., decided to solve his gas problems the old-fashioned way theft. Police discovered a hidden 800-gallon tank in his pickup. Said the local sheriff, "It is obviously not for personal business use," not unless your personal business is driving nonstop to Alaska and back. He had a device that disabled the meter on the gas pump and was caught only because an attendant wondered why it was taking him so long to fill a tank.
In calmer times, a popular slow-day story was about the subculture that fuels cars on a biofuel made from used grease, fats and cooking oil collected from restaurants. The restaurants were glad to be rid of the waste, the biofuel refiners were happy to have it and the only drawback seemed to be driving away in a miasma of fast food smells.
But with $4-plus a gallon gasoline, entrepreneurial thieves are now stealing the contents of restaurant grease traps.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, a 64-year-old woman set out with a supply of artificial fireplace logs and set fires in the bathrooms of two gas stations and a Starbucks. When police caught up with her taking a break at a fast food restaurant she still had eight logs left. She told police she woke up that morning wanting to do something about high gas prices.