Reason magazine has a characteristically excellent video about the gas shortages in New York and New Jersey. Which is to say, the video is really about the insane responses of officials in those states to the scarcity of gas. Reason’s Jim Epstein writes: “Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo…threatened to prosecute any station owners caught raising prices, thus removing any incentive to truck more gas in from other parts of the country.” Here’s the video:
The Washington Post reports Christie responded with an age-old government-rationing scheme:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered…drivers with even-numbered license plates being allowed to fill up on even-numbered dates and odd-numbered cars on the other days. But several motorists said they hadn’t heard the news because they had no power at home, and gas station managers said they didn’t bother to look at the plates.
“I don’t have any time to check plates,” David Singh said as he pumped gas into a car at the Delta station he manages on McCarter Highway in Newark.
So not everyone heard about the government’s rationing scheme, and even fewer people cared. You know what conveys information a lot better than tired government edicts? Market prices.
Fortunately, market prices are still breaking through:
Shauron Sears, 37, a waitress, said she spent 12 hours vainly waiting for gas on Friday and another hour waiting Saturday at a Sunoco station on McCarter Highway. Just as she got to the front of the line, a manager started waving his arms and shouting, “No more gas!”
Sears said…since her house flooded she and her family have been camping at her sister’s house in Orange, N.J. Nine people are in the house, including a baby, and Sears is eager to return to her own home. But her first priority is to get gas.
“There are people who are buying gas and selling it for $8 a gallon,” she said. “Maybe I can buy some from them.”
The entrepreneurs selling gas at illegal mark-ups might affect Sears in a manner the government’s price controls won’t. By helping her.