During the gas shortages of the 1970s, some states came up with a plan to cut 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 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 or availability of gas brings out a deep streak of craziness:
Their low gas mileage has badly hurt the sale of big SUVs such as 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 it. 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 speeding tickets to cover the cost of pulling the motorist over. 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. 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.
Dale McFeatters is a columnist and editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service.