Sunday, April 20, 2008

Things I just learned I didn't know

During the Nixon administration, there were mandatory price controls on oil as well as a two-tier pricing system.

Could you imagine anything like this getting through Congress and onto a president’s desk today?

The most significant piece of legislation imposing new regulations on the oil industry during the 1970s was passed by Congress just a few weeks after the embargo. Its timing gave the appearance of a quick legislative response to OPEC's action. However, in reality the bill had already been working its way through Congress. The bill was titled the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act (EPAA). One of the significant features of the law was the creation of a two tier pricing system. The first tier was defined as known domestic oil reserves. On the basis of the new law, these reserves were closely regulated and could only be sold at pre-embargo prices. As time continued, the law did allow first tier prices to drift upward; yet, the prices were kept lower than world market prices for similar grades of oil. The second tier was defined as all other sources of crude oil. There were no controls imposed on the production or distribution of reserves classified in this tier.*
So how did this all work out? Let’s just say that the big guys didn’t get screwed over but the little guys with their rattling Plymouth Furys and their oil-fueled home furnaces did.

*From The Energy Crisis and the American Political Economy: Politics and Markets in the Management of Natural Resources, by Franklin Tugwell.

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