John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil Co. and one of the most influential voices in the oil industry, called for short-term gasoline rationing by introducing odd-even purchases based on an automobile’s license plate and by limiting the amount of gasoline drivers can purchase.
The United States will be in “a world of hurt” for the next four to six weeks as the oil industry recovers from the damage from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, said Mr. Hofmeister, who recently founded a new company, Citizens for Affordable Energy. The areas where rationing will be needed include the Southeast and extend northward toward Denver, the upper Midwest and Washington, D.C., Mr. Hofmeister said in a newsmaker interview Monday morning with editors and reporters of The Washington Times.
Hurricane Ike idled Texas refineries by knocking out their power after Gustav shut down Louisiana refineries for the same reason. Mr. Hofmeister witnessed gas lines while traveling through Tennessee on Friday as consumers rushed to fill their tanks in anticipation of Ike’s damage. The market is jacking up prices because of a fear of scarcity, he explained.
• Related video: Newsmaker interview with John Hofmeister at The Washington Times
“The supply system in America is not designed for everybody to ‘top-off’ their tanks,” Mr. Hofmeister said. He praised the decision to release 300,000 barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and said further releases will be needed in the weeks ahead.
Regarding the overall economy, Mr. Hofmeister said it is “quite weak for middle- and low-income folks because of the drain on their disposable income” resulting from soaring energy, food and health-care costs.
“America is suffering a lot more than is being reported,” said Mr. Hofmeister, who is also chairman of the National Urban League. The economic slowdown may not be affecting the well-to-do, but it is “really nailing middle- and low-income people.”