Nation: Red Tape and More Red Tape

Why allocations don't work

If a driver in New York City has to wait in line for hours to buy a few gallons of gas, why is there plenty available for a driver in, say, What Cheer, Iowa? The answer lies in some complicated federal regulations that were originally designed, oddly enough, to prevent such inequities.

Under the 1973 Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act, the Department of Energy has the power to direct the distribution of gasoline supplies to the nation's 12,000 wholesalers and 225,000 retailers whenever shortages occur.

The nation is divided into five areas known as Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts (PADDS). Late...

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