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I wrote a very short diary suggesting FEMA to deliver emergency gasoline supplies in areas affected by the fuel shortage. Since I was at work I did not have the time to explain it well.

But looks like the idea ofusing army trucks to stabilize the fuel supply is being tried already.

What I had in mind was going one more step further.

I read news reports that there is enough fuel in the storage tanks and the pipeline. But most gas stations are out of power and they are not able to fill the cars and trucks. I saw pictures of long lines of cars waiting to fill up on the few remaining gas stations that were still working. I am sure these cars would idle some and move 15 feet at a time, wasting more fuel. These long lines on TV will trigger more people to go stand in line.

Most private companies can't just say, "OK, this is an emergency. Just take 10 gallons of gas, we can work out the payment details later". But the government can. The Army has thousands of field fuel trucks that can pump fuel to vehicles, (usually un metered or with very inaccurate metering), without electric power from the grid.

FEMA and the government has both the ability to deliver the fuel and the clout to collect the money later.

So what I had in mind was something like this: Where there is no electric power, the local officials designate a few parking lots as places where FEMA will deliver emergency fuel. As vehicles arrive, the licence plates, owner registration, etc are checked. The owner signs a simple form saying they will pay the cost of the fuel at some later time. They get  a queue number and wait to be called. At some point FEMA/Army fuel trucks arrive, call the cars by their queue number one by one and fill each with about 10 gallons of fuel.

First it will stop the wastage of gas by making cars move 15 feet at a time. Second the news reports of emergency fuel coming to their neighborhood will pacify the population. And the people with emergency fuel needs will get their fuel. The local officials can keep track of the license plates to discourage people from trying to hog the emergency fuel supply.

Later, we can calculate the average price of fuel in unaffected areas and let them know what their fuel bill is. And the government can sell the accounts receivables to
the local municipality or an utility at some 90 cents for the dollar or so. The utility or the municipality can add it to the regular bills and collect the money.

It is probably a little too late for Sandy. But if the logistics of such a system is worked out in advance, we will be better prepared for the next storm.

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