Sharon highlights rationing as an example of ways that people can be convinced to immediately reduce climate emissions. (Interestingly, Matt Simmons has also suggested gasoline rationing as a sensible solution, at least in case of emergencies.) Since American society has not experienced widespread rationing since World War II, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what rationing is actually like.
In 1942, the United States Food Rationing Program began. The Office of Price Administration froze prices on a wide set of goods, and each family was issued a "War Ration Book" to regulate items made scarce by the war. Items such as sugar, meat, butter, processed foods, fats, and oils were rationed, as well as clothing, shoes, gasoline, coffee, and tires, and other items.
Different items were rationed in different ways. Some items were distributed equally (sugar), some were distributed according to need (gasoline), others were sold only after demonstrated need (tires, cars).
Stickers were issued which regulated how much fuel you could purchase in any week. Half of all cars (designated "A") were only allowed 4 gallons of fuel per week and could not be driven for pleasure at all. "Essential" workers could be given up to 8 gallons, and truckers had an unlimited fuel supply. The speed limit - the Victory Speed - was set at 35 mph. Carpooling was encouraged.
The government encouraged compliance without complaint, and an effective propaganda program was launched that promoted patriotism, sacrifice for the greater good, and helping the men and women overseas. Propaganda, which included ads, radio programs and pamphlets, and educational programs which taught housewives how to plan meals within the rationing limits, were very effective. My favorite propaganda posters emphasize the importance of the homefront war effort. Victory Gardens eventually (reportedly) grew almost 40% of the nation's produce, and housewives preserved much of the harvest. Still, a black market evolved over time which supplied rationed items illegally, at a higher price.
In the United Kingdom, rationing during the two World Wars appears to have been stricter, as most of their food was imported, and one of Germany's main strategies was to starve Britain into submission. So food was limited - for example, a person in the UK could receive one egg, one ounce of cheese, three ounces of sugar, four ounces of ham, and two ounces of butter, per WEEK, along with other, non-rationed goods . Rationing in the UK also lasted longer. While America's rationing program ended in 1946, Britain's became even stricter after WWII ended, and Britain's program did not end until 1953 (sugar) and 1954 (meat).
With some exceptions, rationing during the wars appeared successful, although in Britain, it was very austere. There were real restrictions on the availability of goods - so the rationing and price controls ensured at least an appearance of fairness, and a basic diet for everyone. There was a black market, and certain people had "exceptions" (such as Congressmen), and there were ways for the rich to get around restrictions (for example, restaurant meals in Britain were not rationed). But on the whole, it worked.
So... back to our topic - climate change, and how best to save the planet. Help me think this out by commenting on my questions below:
Would a rationing system be a fair way to quickly reduce our carbon emissions?
Would a rationing system work unless there were real restrictions on the supply of goods?
Would a rationing system work in a country where a sizeable part of the population still does not "believe" in global warming?
What items should be rationed, and how could they be rationed? Gasoline? Cars? Food? Consumer goods?
Would you accept rationing? What would you NOT accept rationing for? Is there anything you would go to the black market for?
Would Americans comply with a rationing program for the good of everyone, the planet, as well as for themselves? If not, how could could they be persuaded?
If you don't think any kind of rationing would be accepted, what's your best alternative to cut emissions by 50% in the next 5 years?
Whew! Thanks in advance for your comments!