Gasoline Nazis

Don Sensing demonstrates that save-gasoline hysteria is nothing new.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. odograph says:

    You haven’t proven it was hysteria, just that the problem is long-recognized 😉

    There are serious questions of what to do with a finite resource. I personally think market allocation is great, but a little ‘user education’ helps as well.

    Maybe it’s like dessert. You can afford it, but is it always good for you?

  2. odograph says:

    BTW, there are curiosities in our less-than-free market:

    9 Out of 10 Americans Want Access to Dozens of Car Models That Get High mpg Ratings … But are not Sold in U.S.

    Weird isn’t it? We think of ourselves as free to make market choices, but our choices are actually limited.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Odo: In the case of the WWII cartoon, the “hysteria” I refer to is the slogan moreso that the idea that carpooling would be a good thing. Ditto those who claim that driving an SUV is to help the terrorists and such. Over-the-top rhetoric in the service of a worthwhile cause is still over-the-top.

    As to the inability to buy fuel efficient cars, I’m guessing the story plays fast and lose with the numbers. Those “frustrated” with “waiting” are almost certainly those who want hybrids, for which demand seems to have temporarily outpaced supply. Manufacturers are rushing to meet that demand, though.

    As to the 80-odd cars available elsewhere that get great mileage, presumably they’re unavailable here because dealers have calculated that there aren’t enough people willing to buy them to make importing them worthwhile. There are a ridiculous number of model choices available here so the idea that dealers would voluntarily forego profit in order to thwart the American consumer strikes me as ludicrous.

    Just because people say they want fuel efficiency doesn’t mean they’ll actually sacifice comfort, size, performance, style, luxury, image, and so forth in order to have it.

  4. McGehee says:

    As to the 80-odd cars available elsewhere that get great mileage, presumably they’re unavailable here because dealers have calculated that there aren’t enough people willing to buy them to make importing them worthwhile.

    How do these high-MPG foreign-made vehicles rate in terms of passenger safety? It’s true we do have regulations that might exclude some foreign-made vehicles from U.S. markets — but those have been imposed by the same nanny-state imperatives that also imposed the CAFE regulations.

    Odo is right in that our choices are limited — but those limits have been sold to us for generations as being “for our own good.” If that’s no longer good enough to justify those regulations, and it’s time to return to a caveat emptor market, then (heh) so be it.

  5. odograph says:

    I believe the US makers, who “have calculated that there arent enough people willing to buy them” are hitting some entirely predictable snags right now.

    FWIW, I fault GM not for making Hummers, but for not maintaining sufficiently diverse product lines. In a free and open market, we’d have access to that GM 60 mpg Opel/Vauxhall Tigra, as well as the Hummers. And, I believe this would benefit GM at least as much as it would benefit current consumers, future consumers, etc.

    There may be “hysteria” – but I think I hear a good signal amidst the noise.

    I do think that there is some discussion and education that should be taking place, surrounding the “now” focus in markets and where money is flowing. Think of the (now vanished) cod fishery in the Atlantic. There was not a good incentive for fishers to leave fish in the ocean. It made better economic sense for them to catch every one, and sell it.

    Oil markets are not true commons … but watch out, because even when they are not nationalized, they are ‘leased’ from governments. Will governments and oil companies do better than fishers, or will they think it is better to make money now, if not this quarter, certainly before they retire … or worse yet die?

    I think the balance is set too fast – burning oil too fast, and sending money overseas to the middle east too fast.

    It WOULD benefit us to slow down, and spend more money on home grown (no pun intended) solutions.

  6. odograph says:

    P.S. – rather than argue drilling in ANWAR, step back and notice that it is a political discussion between those who want the government to dispense it now, and those want the government to hold off.

    Unfortunately the government is NOT a rational ‘owner’ of the ANWAR oil, who … looking to maximize his return, would consider the increased value of the oil further decades hence.

    No the whole machine only makes money if it drills. Drilling allows oil companies to get a loan, buy the lease, pay lobbiests, support congressmen, and begin the cycle again.

  7. Herb says:


    What are you talking about, “Finite Resource” ??

    Right now, there is a supply of oil AVAILABLE that equils all of the oil produced since the world has been producing oil.

    That ststement came from the President of Exxon/Mobil.

  8. odograph says:

    On safety, this page:

    has a:


    Germany, with its small cars, does worse than the US, but the UK, with its small cars, does better.

    Maybe we should “switch sides” in the road.

  9. odograph says:

    So Herb, how does the President of Exxon/Mobil fare if we all decide to drive more efficient cars?

  10. odograph says:

    that’s really weird t-bird. i’ve owned SUVs and mountain bikes at the same time, and never had such a violent altercation with myself.

  11. Herb says:


    Com-on now, you can do better than that. What a lame comment

    As to your answer to t bird, perhaps it did happen to you resulting in some of the dumb comments you have made in defence of the eco nuts.

  12. odograph says:

    What are you going to do next Herb, quote tobacco companies on the safety of cigarettes?

  13. Anderson says:

    Odo, don’t get all logical on Herb. This is a family blog.

  14. Bithead says:

    Well, I need a medical opinion.
    I’ll meet you at the garage.

    Sound right to you?
    Or would it make more sense to go where the experts are?

  15. odograph says:

    Do you understand the term “fiduciary responsibility?”

    When a company president speaks, who’s interests is he legally bound to protect?

    It’s like choosing a new car … do you trust the “experts” at Toyota to tell you how good their car is, or do you read the car magazines, edmonds, consumer reports, etc?

  16. odograph says:

    BTW, the guys at Motley Fool have a good summary of the current situation. Their interest doesn’t favor any one player or industry … they just want to make a buck off whoever succeeds:

    The experts do agree that the world’s oil supply faces significant challenges. The largest oil fields in the North Sea and North America are in permanent production decline, and demand is rising. If oil production from somewhere else does not increase rapidly, demand will outstrip supply in the very near future. Where is that new oil going to come from? Saudi Arabia is the only OPEC member that claims to have excess capacity, but the Saudi government won’t allow outsiders to independently audit the fields there.

    Even if we are not sitting atop the peak, I see the supply-and-demand balance to be so tight that energy companies should lead the market for many more years. However, keep your head on your shoulders, and don’t bet on everyone driving hydrogen-powered automobiles. In 20 years, the cars we drive and the fuels we fill them with will most likely be very similar to the ones we use today.

  17. Herb says:


    You refered everyone to your favirite guide on your thoughts.


    I don’t know where you get your expertise on oil, but about 6 weeks ago at an worldwide oil conference, it was stated that today, there are an estimated 3 Trillion barrels of oil available and that another 7 Trillion barrels yet to be discovered. The 3 Trillion barrels is more oil that has ever been produced since oil production began.

    I sure am happy that your expertise is greater than those who produce oil, or did you get your info from “”

    Anderson, you eco nuts are all alike, Watch out for the squirrls. Or, are a “” patron also.

  18. Herb says:



    I bet you two are from Calif.

  19. odograph says:

    The tricky thing about those big numbers is that they imply it is all “oil” when there are actually significant differences between the types. Some people even count oil shale, even though no one has ever figured out a commerical proccess to produce it.

    As the “fool” says, the sure thing is that the easy and cheap oil was exploited first, and is starting to disappear.

    Oil isn’t going to go away, but it is going to get more expensive, and shift even more toward the middle east. If we don’t plan for it, we’ll just send them even more money.

    If that is your plan for America Herb … I gotta say it will be good for the Saudis.

  20. Bithead says:


    That kinda depends on the prices.
    We’re sitting on larger deposits of oil than the Saudis have EVER had. DO you really think it that big a deal to find out how to process such, when there’s money to be made?

    Of course the government could, and likely will screw the whole thing up in the name of the environment.

  21. odograph says:

    You are talking about the oil shale?

    They might surprise me, but I’ve done some reading on this. I particularly like Kenneth S. Deffeyes’ “Beyond Oil.” He’s an old petrolium geologist, and he has the same curmudgeonly-engineer’s outlook that I have. There are things that work, and things that are easy, but it’s not always possible to make everything easy …. or cheap.

    More general reading on the ‘end of easy oil’ is here:

  22. odograph says:

    Sorry to keep throwing links, but I do find this stuff fascinating. A respected economics blog says oil sands (which are a bit easier than oil shale) might help with peak oil, but “not much”: