Matt at One Million and Beyond wrote a post about how to save money on gas costs. His idea was simple: just use less of it. It makes sense, of course, because the less gas you use, the less money you’ll spend on it. But will the majority of people ever do that voluntarily? So I got to thinking, should gas be rationed?
After all, there’s only a limited supply of oil, and using it to make gasoline so that we can drive back and forth running random errands all day long might not be the best use of that supply.
If gas were rationed for individuals, people would be forced to cut down on unnecessary trips. They’d also be forced to redefine their definition of “necessary”. Maybe companies would be forced to allow their workers to telecommute at least part of the time, since many workers wouldn’t be able to get there otherwise. After all, many of us have jobs that could just as easily be done from home. It’s only convention, company culture, and a fear that people won’t really work if they’re at home that prevents that from happening now.
On the other hand, I suspect rationing gas would create a large number of problems. People might start hoarding it. Low gas users might start buying their full share to re-sell, instead of continuing to use a low amount. Restaurants and stores might have fewer customers, because those would probably be the first types of trips to be cut. That might cause layoffs, etc. And who wants more government controls, especially on something that directly impacts our individual movements? Not me.
Maybe a better route would be to give more incentives to businesses who require their employees to telecommute at least one day a week. That could add up to a significant reduction in gas right there. Incentives could be added for low-gas users as well, although of course the incentives would need to be paid for somehow. Maybe with an additional tax on gasoline, which would drive the price higher and (in theory) possibly reduce use further? I don’t know. But it’s something to think about, and it’s sobering how intertwined gas and cars are with our lives.