Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How to promote a petrol shortage

In the 1970s there was a shortage of sugar. I used to help in my parents' grocery shop and I remember some customers coming in very regularly for their bags of sugar. I also remember stories of people with kitchen shelves full of sugar.

The Irish potato famine was caused by crop failure but the famine was exacerbated by political failings. It isn't good if you allow the free market to export some of the remaining crops and there is no control over getting essential food to those in most need.

Earlier this week I was reminded of environmentally friendly advice such as turning off the tap when cleaning teeth, and not filling the kettle when you only want one cup of boiling water. These things make clear sense to me, and similarly, if we are able to drive with half a tank of petrol then we will save energy when compared with those who drive with a full tank simply because we are not carrying the added weight.

However there is now talk of a petrol shortage if a strike by tanker drivers goes ahead. David Cameron's advice is to top-up the tank and to fill any petrol cans that you can store in your garage. The trouble is that I can't see the difference between this sensible advice and panic buying. If we all take this advice we will have queues at petrol stations and then they will run out of petrol. We will have waste by queuing, waste by driving with extra weight and waste by those without petrol cans having to make alternative arrangements. And let's not forget all the added fire hazards throughout the country.

I'd like to finish on a positive so those who can afford to store petrol really safely for a few weeks (just in case a strike does actually go ahead) will do really well. It doesn't matter if it sugar or potatoes or petrol, but it would be nice to have the right advice at the right time.

Change the world

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