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May 11, 2006

Idiots in Congress

James Hamilton has a lovely little piece showing that the US Congress does indeed have at least 389 idiots amongst its members. (If you think that too strong, replace with 389 members willing to pander to the ignorance of idiots.)

In the latest stupidity over $3 gas (quelle horreur!) they have decided that:

It shall be an unfair or deceptive act or practice in violation of section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act for any person to sell crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil, or any biofuel at a price that constitutes price gouging as defined by rule pursuant to subsection (b).

Read the whole thing to get the true utter inanity of the proposal.

One further thing to add though. In the situation that James describes, when a known supply shock is moving through the system, one odd fact (which I wouldn’t want to have to prove, just something I vaguely remember) is that the storage capacity for gas of the American car fleet is greater than that of the supply system. So if everybody goes out and fills up their tanks the country is out of gas.

May 11, 2006 | Permalink


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"that the storage capacity for gas of the American car fleet is greater than that of the supply system"

Interesting. Does it work? Say 350m vehicles with an average capacity of 21 gallons per tank (this is a wild guess, but as it's ... half a barrel of oil, it makes the calculation easier). I make that 175m barrels of gasoline (does the barrel apply to gasoline?). Apparently on May 6th refiners had 346.7m barrels of oil.

I'm not sure now about the relationship between oil and gasoline storage.

Tim adds: As I say, I’m not sure about it, something I’ve seen somewhere....
Take out that oil that gets made into heating oil, avgas, etc etc and it might get there....
Ah, no, the original was I think that gas tanks are greater than gas (not oil) storage. I did try googleing for some figures but didn’t really get anywhere.

Posted by: Matthew | May 11, 2006 11:50:04 AM

You left out the best part of the bill, which is that price gouging is to be defined at a later date by the beaurocracy over at the FTC. Strange the ways that the redistribution of wealth is entered into the system. It's also strange that noone has come out and called all the citzens with 401(k) plans invested in oil companies selfish.(I am not saying that they are selfish, only that this is the natural conclusion to the "price gouging" argument.)

Posted by: B's Freak | May 11, 2006 3:19:26 PM

Perhaps Caligula was right.

Someone's horse might actually do better. Alas, we only seem to elect the nether parts of the horse.

Posted by: John Fembup | May 11, 2006 10:11:31 PM

I've never got the whole "price gouging" complaint when it comes from supposed marketeers. The US is the haven of the free market, yet it's them complaining about how it works.

If it were authoritarian leftists, then they'd at least be vaguely consistent, but if you believe in a market, understand it. Supply goes down, demand go up, prices rise.

Even an avowed socialist like me understands that. Morons.

Posted by: MatGB | May 12, 2006 12:53:58 AM