- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2008

•Would you be willing - or able - to get by on 4 gallons (not dollars, but gallons) of gas every week per family? If you have more than one car, SUV or van you could divide that 4 gallons among them. You could continue your lifestyle (up to a point) but with a lot less of the juice that keeps you going.

That’s what happened on the home front during World War II when gasoline, tires, butter and many other things were rationed. One problem is that few of the people who remember making those sacrifices are around today. The so-called Greatest Generation is dying at the rate of about 1,000 per day. Many survivors are no longer willing or able to drive.

•How would you cope with limited supplies of gasoline that, when you could get it, set you back $9 per gallon. That, according to readers in Europe, is what folks are paying there right now. Civilians working for Defense get coupons that permit them to pay about what we are paying right now. But citizens of Germany and other places are paying through the nose.

One reader said that Germany - during the 1970s oil crises - banned all nonessential driving on Sunday. Period. He said he doubted it would work here now because businesses, churches and functions- like Redskins games - would demand exemptions.

•Another reader, a mid-60s employee with Interior, recalls what things were like in Washington doing the 1970s oil crunch. Gasoline - which you had to lineup to get - was sold on odd-even days. People whose tags ended in an even number could get gas on days that were 2, 4, 6 or 8. He forgets what happened in days in “0,” but he recalls a big fight whether to count it or not. People whose tags ended in 1,3, 5, 7 and 9 could get gas on those days. Assuming it was available. Even when you got up to the pump, after sitting in a long line for hours, many service stations limited people to $5 purchases. He recalls people coming down the line who took your $5, and gave you a number. “The kicker,” he said, was that once you finally got up to the pump you were told nobody was authorized to take money or give you a number.” In other words, you had paid some scam artist. Not the station. So if you wanted your limited supply of gasoline you paid again.

•Do you live life in the fast lane? If so could you - and the nation - cope with a national 35 mile per hour speed limit. Several readers, including one whose father was with the Office of Price Administration say the speed limit was trimmed for several years. It helped conserve gasoline and saved in wear and tear on tires which - rubber was rationed - were often more valuable than the vehicles.

Several of the people we interviewed noted that in addition to conserving for the war effort (and in reaction to bona fide shortages), it helped to involve civilians on the homefront. “Nobody in those days talked about ‘the administration’ as in the Roosevelt administration sending troops to England or North Africa. Nobody said the ‘Truman administration’ ordered the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was ‘us’ and them,” said a retired postal worker who was 5 or 6 when the war ended.

If the gasoline crunch continues look for Congress - not until next year - to mandate that federal agencies have a certain percentage of workers who work from home at least a couple of days a week. Or from telework centers located between home and office.

“The plan is in place, both for teleworking and for continuation of government operations,” an Army civilian said. ” What is lacking is for somebody to say do it and make it stick.”

Mike Causey, senior editor at Federal News Radio AM 1050, can be reached at 202/895-5132 or mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.

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