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Posts Tagged ‘rationing

Australia Pumping Empty

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Australia Pumping Empty
Fuel rationing may be just one of a series of shocks facing drivers and commuters in Queensland, Australia. Looming oil shortages will produce the biggest change in society since the industrial revolution, Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara warned yesterday.

To underscore his concerns, Mr McNamara will appear in a documentary film premiering May 20th in which he says the days when Queenslanders could “travel on a whim” in oil-powered vehicles are numbered. The documentary, ‘Australia Pumping Empty‘, argues southeast Queensland is squandering billions on road, bridge and tunnel projects on which few will be able to afford to travel.

A report by Mr McNamara for the Queensland State Cabinet on the impact of the fuel crisis is expected to include recommendations on rationing, the future of public and private transport and sustainable population issues. It has been ordered on the premise that there is overwhelming evidence world oil production will peak in under a decade. It is expected to recommend risk mitigation measures such as cuts in fuel consumption and encouraging the development and use of alternative fuels, technologies and strategies. It will also outline demographic and regional changes as Queenslanders change travel, work and living habits.

“I think people are going to be in for a shock when they find it’s too expensive to drive their cars to work and then, when they get down to the station, they find the train is full and they can’t get on board,” Mr McNamara said. He will recommend the State Government focuses urgently on ways to cut private-car use. “I cannot overstate this – we need to adopt a wartime mentality. We’re going to face a level of urgency that will require dramatic change.” Private car use is expected to trend towards hybrid vehicles and then to electric. “But will we have enough electricity generating capacity when everyone comes home and plugs their cars in to recharge?”

Mr McNamara said no government would want to introduce fuel rationing but it could not be ruled out. It might become an option as fuel supplies run down and prices rise to avoid a situation where only the rich can afford private transport. “We face the need for a whole new economy, from the way we generate power, to how we deliver water, to how we live”.

It’s good to see that someone, somewhere, is taking all this seriously.

‘Queensland’s vulnerability to rising oil prices’ – taskforce report April 2007


Written by Pete Smith

May 18, 2008 at 8:38 am

U.S. Food Shortages

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food rationing

An article in the New York Sun last Monday reported food rationing at “big box” warehouse stores like COSTCO and Sam’s Club (‘Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World‘). A media frenzy has developed about spot shortages of staples such as rice, flour, and cooking oil. Here’s a small sample:

Reuters: ‘Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club limits rice purchases

Washington Times: ‘Americans hoard food as industry seeks regulations

FOX News: ‘Food Shortage Coming? No Rice For You

Wall Street Journal : ‘Load Up the Pantry’

If the WSJ is getting in on the act, you feel that things may be reaching a tipping point. Typically, the article proposes food stockpiling, not as a survival tactic, but as an investment opportunity, citing food inflation figures considerably higher than rates of return on conventional investments.

Recent shortages and jumps in food prices are global, driven by increased fuel costs, the Ug99 wheat rust threat and drought-hit harvests in Australia. The U.S. has been exporting large quantities of wheat and rice to Asia over the last 6 months to take up the slack. Inevitably, this is having a knock-on effect on consumers at home. The COSTCO and Sam’s Club warehouses where rationing has been reported are the hunting ground of commercial bakeries and restaurants as well as individual ‘cash and carry’ buyers of relatively large quantities of rice and flour. Local shortages may be due to supply problems; failure to keep up with price increases, making ‘big box’ stores cheaper than wholesale; stockpiling as a hedge against inflation.

In the short term, we can see this as a failure of ‘just in time’ supply chains to cope with a spike in demand. The U.S. government will probably move to restrict exports of wheat and rice, or ban them altogether. Once everyone who wants to boost their store cupboard has done so, and the supply chains have caught up, it’ll be back to business as usual. Probably.

That’s the short term. What happens after that is a different kettle of worms.

Culinary note: ‘Properly prepared, worms can be a tasty source of protein

Afterword April 23rd, Sam’s Club issued the following statement:

“We currently have plenty of rice for Sam’s Club Members. However, like our competitors, we’re just taking the precautionary step of limiting sales of the very large 20 pound bags of imported jasmine, basmati and long grain white rices, in our case, to four per member. This temporary restriction does not apply to retail-sized rice for sale in Sam’s or elsewhere at Wal-Mart stores. It also doesn’t apply in New Mexico or Idaho.

“On average, a typical Sam’s Club Business Member does not buy more than 80 pounds of rice in one visit. This temporary cap is intended to ensure there is plenty of rice for all our members. No other items are affected.”

Written by Pete Smith

April 24, 2008 at 10:38 am