Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Lesson From Tom McCall

In 1973 the Arabs shut off oil to America.

Huge lines at gas stations occurred overnight and lasted for months.

The best case was, after 2 to 6 hours in line you could get some gas.

The more common case was that you waited in line for a long time and it shut down and you got no gas.

It was not a good time.

The situation I am describing was how things were in Portland.

Oregon appeared to have been chosen by the American petro-chemical industry to be.made an example of: “this is what happens to states that pursue aggressive pro-environment policies”.

So we got the lines.

From the knowledge I had gained as a USAF Intelligence Officer I had learned that the huge oil storage tanks that the oil industry used for keeping its inventory ready for local disbursal all had floating lids: a full tank’s lid was all the way to the top; an empty tank had a lid at its bottom.

The major gasoline storage facilities in Portland were all in industrial areas right next to several of the City’s Willamette spanning bridges.

So you could look down and see the lids when you crossed those bridges.

Those were bridges that Noel the IBM Salesman went over multiple times in a week.

Every time I looked down, all the lids were floating, all the time, at the top of all the tanks.

The oil companies were selling just enough to keep minimum cash flow necessary to stay in business and Portlanders got to wait in interminable lines.

There was inventory; the early people in line got gas; there just wasn’t enough for the entire driving population every day in every line.

So the oil companies were financing an artificial nightmare to make a point.

We were never sure exactly what that point was.

After a few weeks of this, Tom McCall the Governor, ordered that people could only buy gas on alternate days; cars with license plates ending on an even number bought on even days; odd license plates on odd days.

That cut the daily demand by 50%.

The question was, was the cash flow sustaining supply allowed in the system by Big Oil somewhere in synch with a 50% reduction in daily demand.

It was.

And after almost no time at all the gas stations went back to looking and acting like they had only a month or two before.

That was a problem identical to the current problem of the empty grocery shelves that are appearing all over America.

I seems to me that the same solution with an addition should tide us over until the one thing America is good at – producing and shipping food, sundries, medicine and toiletries – gets geared up to meet the country’s underlying hysteria.

Everything I hear says that America will be geared up to supply the hysteria in a few weeks.

In the interim someone should propose that if your social security number ends with an even number you can shop on even numbered days; if odd, you shop on odd numbered days.

In any event, the maximum amount of anything you can buy is one, if the quantity is each (dozen and half gallon are eaches, for example) or two pounds if bought by weight, meat and seafood being the exception with a maximum of five pounds per SKU.

Where is Tom McCall when we need him?

But we’ve got donnie.

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