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Mr. WALTON. Well, I would leave one car home and she would make the rounds of the gas stations and see if she could get enough: gas to get it as full as she could, half full, three quarters full, whatever. At that time, it seemed like just an inconvenience but nothing terribly serious.
About 2 weeks ago, we suddenly found out that it was much more than a minor inconvenience, that gas stations that we depended on to be open reasonable hours suddenly were not open anymore.
I got myself involved by stopping into a gas station with my hat in my hand, I saw the attendant pumping gas, so I know they had gas. He informed me that they had none for me today—they were servicing emergency vehicles only, so I very quietly put my hat and my hands back in my pocket and drove back out of the gas station yard, and I think it was at that point
Senator KENNEDY. Did it appear to you that he was only serving emergency vehicles ?
Mr. WALTON. Oh, there were small trucks, pickup trucks, that type thing, panel type trucks—there were two or three at the pumps, and so forth. This, incidentally, was the Friday night before Governor Sargent's plan was introduced, and I was trying to make sure that I had enough gas. I know that in my area, we couldn't get gas on Saturday, anyway, and the stations were closed Sunday, so I had to get my gas at that time. I guess I panicked a little bit at that point. I suddenly realized that I just plain wasn't going to be able to get any gas and I was going to have to get along with what I had.
Since then, of course, we have had many experiences of chasing gas, spending gas to get gas, and so forth
Senator KENNEDY. How many stations do you think your wife would have to visit before she could get some gas, and then, could you describe to us what the practices are in the Merrimac area, whether you are limited in the number of gallons you can get, or the amount of dollars that you can spend?
Mr. WALTON. All right. I think that Merrimac appears to be almost unique, in that since the Sargent plan started, the selectmen met, I think, Tuesday night of that week. The report in the paper came out that the plan for Merrimac—there are five gas stations-was that all stations had agreed to give a $2 maximum, rather than follow the plan that was suggested by the Governor. That is all the gas stations we have in town. It is a small town and you have to drive approximately 10 miles to get to the nearest other town. So what that meant to me—I have a Volkswagen and a Chevrolet station wagon-was that I can more or less tolerate the plan with the Volkswagen. But further to do with that plan, the man that I have been dealing with for 15 or 20 years, his hours were changed from 7 to 9. Actually, that didn't represent really much of a change, they were 7 to 9 before. The difference seemed to be that instead of 7 in the morning until 9 at night, it was 7 in the morning until 9 in the morning, so you can see that was a considerable change.
That meant that I had to get my gas on the way to work in the morning. Now with the Volkswagen, the $2 limit was more or less tolerated
Senator KENNEDY. $2 limit? Is that
Mr. WALTON. $2 maximum. Senator KENNEDY. Is that the usual practice up in the Merrimac Valley area?
Mr. WALTON. That is the absolutely agreed-to practice of the gas stations in the town of Merrimac.
Senator KENNEDY. What do you think when you see the television at night and you hear about the fact that there are service station owners in Georgia and other parts of the country that say they have got all the gas they can use, and they are going full blast all day and they have only seen a very modest increase in price? Do you think that you are getting your fair share or that we are getting our fair share up here in Massachusetts? ?
Mr. WALTON. I don't think there is any question that we are behind. In my business, I have occasion to deal with people in other parts of the country—North Carolina, specifically, and California. We have plants in both those areas.
Our main topic of conversation these days is gasoline shortage, so I have checked with them and asked them how they have done and for a long while there, they started to laugh at me. In other words, they said they read about Massachusetts in the paper and they just couldn't understand what the problem was because they obviously didn't have one. There were no lines at their stations; they drove in and filled up.
That just really bothers you. You just know that there is something wrong up here in Massachusetts.
What this has done—this whole plan, this whole setup——it has made me almost panic-stricken. I feel as though I have to go into a gas station with my hat in my hand and hope the fellow blesses me with at least $2 worth, and I feel like I have really accomplished something if I get $3 worth, and if I ever find a guy that fills me up, boy, that is something to talk about—and that is no joke.
One of my coworkers did that just the other day. He came back from a trip to New Hampshire with no gas in his tank and he is still talking about the fact that he actually found a gas station that gave him 20 gallons. Can you imagine talking about that for 2 days, that you owned 20 gallons ? The impact on you is just fantastic.
Senator KENNEDY. How do you think the system could be changed. Have you any ideas?
Mr. WALTON. Well, since I became involved in it, I have done some thinking about it and I have done some analyzing of my own situation, for example. There is no question about some things that can be done about it.
I grew up in the early forties. I had my driver's license back then and I developed a prejudice against gas rationing, so I am not one that would normally jump at that as a feasible solution.
Senator KENNEDY. Do you favor rationing today?
Mr. Walton. I certainly do. Almost anything, rationing or whatever, is better than what we have right now. The situation right now is absolutely intolerable. I just don't want to live the way we are living and I can't imagine living this way on a long-term basis. I am thinking about the summer coming up. You know, we have only been in this thing a month or so now-a couple of months—and I just can't imagine it continuing this way. It just can't-something has to be done.
I hear people talking about rationing and until I really got emotionally involved, I couldn't stand the thought of it. Right now, I am convinced that rationing is the only way.
Senator KENNEDY. What do you think, Mr. Lasch? What is your view? But first give us your name and a little bit of your background.
STATEMENT OF HENRY LASCH, CONSUMER Mr. LASCH. Henry Lasch and I am from South Dartmouth. I am a student at Southeastern Massachusetts University and I also work-I am a full-time student and I am working full-time.
Senator KENNEDY. You are a veteran, aren't you? Mr. Lasch. I am a veteran, yes. Senator KENNEDY. How long were you in the service? Mr. Lasch. Three and one-half years. Senator KENNEDY. Where did Mr. Lasch. I was a Navy medic, with the First Marine Division in Vietnam.
I am, in fact, making an effort to get my education completed.
Senator KENNEDY. You are going to school and you are also working, is that correct?
Mr. Lasch. Working full time, right, and my wife works also.
Mr. Lasch. Well, there seems to be an administrative problem right now and I haven't received my checks, but any month now
Senator KENNEDY. We will be glad to help you if you want to see me afterwards.
Mr. LASCH. Fine, I would appreciate it. Senator KENNEDY. Go ahead. Mr. Lasch. Concerning gasoline, my circumstances are similar to Mr. Walton. I need at least enough gas to go to school and to go to work; I need enought gas to go 40 miles a day, and my wife works in New Bedford and she needs enough to go approximately 20 miles a day.
We are having trouble. Some days, I can't get any at all. What happens is the gas stations are open usually between 7 and 8 in the morning. They aren't open during the day at all.
One gas station will give you 10 gallons worth of gas, where another gas station will give you $2 worth of gas, another gas station will not take you because you are not a regular customer, and within this same 5-mile radius another dealer offered to sell me all the gas I could use at 70 cents a gallon.
Senator KENNEDY. At what? Mr. LASCH. 70 cents a gallon. Quick figuring, that would cost me about $30 a week, which is a lot of money to run a car, and it is a necessity. I have tried car pooling, but I have such a fast schedule, going from school to work, that there is no way I can do it.
Senator KENNEDY. What do you think ought to be done?
Mr. LASCH. Well, the big problem in the area down there is, there is no consistency from one gas station to another. You can go wait in a line for 1 hour and you will get $2 worth of gas, which is 4 gallons, which is nothing. You can't go a day on 4 gallons. And you go to another one and you get 10 gallons, you go to another one and they won't take you. So you need uniformity to get the rules set; so when you go into a gas station, you know what you are going to get and what you are allowed.
I was in a line the other morning at quarter to seven in the morning and I sat there until 8 o'clock. I received my gas at 8 o'clock and I went to school and got there at 8:30. This involves 3 days a week that I miss my first classes. I am completely stymied in this class and it involves alternating classes according to the week. I have brought this situation to the attention of the school administration because I and other students are having trouble getting to classes in the morning because there is no gas for sale during the day. Any gas that might be for sale during the day, there is a minimum of a 2-hour wait. I can't do that. I just don't have that time.
Senator KENNEDY. What do you favor--do you favor a rationing system?
Mr. Lasch. Well, I have never-because of my age-experienced rationing. I have heard a lot of bad things about it and it is hard to say whether I do or not, but there should be some sort of uniformity. Whether that involves rationing or not, I am not sure.
You go from one town to another, or you are visiting, or you are not a regular customer, you are out of luck; and there is nothing you can do about it.
Senator KENNEDY. Do you think Massachusetts is getting its fair share?
Mr. Lasch. I talked to one dealer who I get my 10 gallons from fairly regularly and he informs me that he is getting 65 percent of his 1972 allocation, and if the national figures of the stockpiles are only down 10 percent, there is 25 percent missing. Where it is, I don't know, but obviously we are not getting it.
I have been told that there is a bumper sticker going around down south that says "Drive 90 and freeze the Yankees."
Senator KENNEDY. Your stories are repeated time and again by the scores of people that came in here earlier this morning, around 9 o'clock.
We have got six gasoline stations within six blocks of here, and five of them were closed, and the one that was open had about 40 cars, 40 cars, waiting in line. Whether they are going to be able to get the $2 limit or the 10 gallon limit, or what, is something which I am sure is going to remain a mystery. The stories you tell are being told all over the State.
The fact remains that we have had more gasoline stations that have closed in our region than any other section of the country. We are ranked as the fourth highest according to the AAA survey in gasoline in terms of hours and number of gallons, we are also one of the highest States. So we have been caught in practically every cross fire that there is limitation on the quantities of gasoline and increase in cost. That runs completely contrary to the mandate of Congress that provides for the equitable distribution and equitable prices.
Yes, Mr. Walton!
Mr. Walton. Actually, Senator, you need really two solutions. You need an immediate solution becanse we have got a problem right now that I think is almost irreversible, and probably, rationing is the best immediate answer.
It looks as though we are going to be faced with this thing for many, many years to come and so we have to face a long-term problem, too. I think now is the time that the Government has to consider the possibility that there realy is no competion in the gasoline industry today. I think the big companies are not competing with each other anymore. You don't even see them advertising against each other on TĎ. So I think now is the time that there must be a competitor to generate it further, and maybe now is the time to start something like a U.S. oil company, a corporation so the Government, or somebody that has the consumers interest at heart, is able to find out just what a gallon of gasoline does cost by going out and getting it themselves.
In other words, generate a competitor. There seems to be none today. I believe in competition and I think competition will bring the price down and increase the supply, and I don't know of anyone big enough to really get into that business, other than the Government. So I think really somebody should be thinking about this.
Senator KENNEDY. Well, we are. Congress is working on legislation to establish a public corporation to develop the oil and gas reserves which are on land which is held by the public.
As you are aware, TVA served as a yardstick for power companies in the south, and I support legislation to develop a public corporation, to develop the oil and natural gas reserves which exist on public lands and to serve as a yardstick. It would serve as a potential competitor for some of the majors and I think we can make some important progress in this area, as you pointed out.
It is not only competition between the companies which is essential but between alternative sources of energy the oil companies are inerasing their ownership of various companies that own other energy resources, so they are in many instances, stifling competition between sources of energy and we have to avoid that as well.
Yes, Mr. Lasch?
Mr. LASCH. Just one thing, concerning the Federal Energy Office, I noticed yesterday, that a suit was filed against them and that others were threatened, too. Then suddenly they released these millions and millions of gallons of gasoline-why didn't they fight this? Don't they have confidence in themselves that they are handling the job properly? Why wasn't the gasoline released before ?
Senator KENNEDY. That is a good question. We will ask the representative of the FEO later on this morning, that very question.
Mr. LASCH. Thank you.
Our next witness, the Honorable Francis Sargent, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Let me say at the outset, I have enjoyed working with the Governor. He has visited Washington on a number of different occasions, to meet with Mr. Simon, and express the concerns of Massachusetts. I think that the gasoline that we have received in the last 18 hours is in no small part due to your very active participation and intercession, Governor, and to the expressing of concern by the New England Congressional delegation. We are fortunate that of the 20 odd States that received additional supplies, Massachusetts was near the top of the list. Hopefully, we are getting our message across about the very critical shortages that we are facing here and the increased cost of the fuel that