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A modest proposal

October 20th, 2002

Bloggers as diverse as Ken Parish and Steven den Beste have argued that the real case for an invasion of Iraq is ‘about oil’ in the sense that it will provide a way of breaking the OPEC stranglehold on oil, and therefore allowing the US to deal with the real source of Islamist terrorism: Saudi Arabia. For those who support such a rationale, and regard the threat posed by Islamists as calling for American sacrifices comparable to those made in World War II (not to mention the thousands of Iraqi civilians and unwilling conscripts whose lives will be sacrificed as ‘collateral damage’) I have a proposal that is simple, cost-effective,unilateral, foolproof and unthinkable.

The proposal is petrol (gasoline) rationing. If the US reduced its consumption of oil (used primarily for gasoline) by half, it would reduce its import dependency to zero and Americans would still be able consume more, per person, than the rest of the OECD. OPEC would be out of business. The proposal is:

Simple:

Nothing could be simpler than this

Cost-effective:

In financial terms, the US would reduce its trade deficit. In economic terms, there would be a loss of consumer welfare, but it would be well under the 3 per cent of GDP that has been estimated as the cost of a serious war effort

Unilateral:

An invasion of Iraq requires the co-operation of at least some middle Eastern oil states and preferably Saudi Arabia itself. In addition, it requires at least passive consent from the Russians, who have apparently already secured guarantees that their oil interests won’t be affected. Rationing can be implemented without going near the UN or any foreign government.

Foolproof:

Unlike war, which is always chancy, rationing is something at which governments have always excelled. And if black marketeers managed to slip around the edges of the policy, even a 25 per cent reduction in US demand would push the Saudis into bankruptcy

Unthinkable:

Just think about it

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  1. June 21st, 2003 at 02:12 | #1

    Pointless.
    The problem is not US economic usage of oil supplies but Fundie abusage of oil revenues, to spread terrorism and WMDs.
    No amount of gasoline rationing will stop that,
    only social reform, or physical destruction, of the ME.

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