Iranians burn a gas station and nearby cars during a protest against gas-rationing, in northwest Tehran June 26, 2007. Angry Iranians set fire to a Tehran petrol station and chanted anti-government slogans in a northwest area of the capital on Tuesday in protest against fuel rationing introduced in OPEC's number two oil producer. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi (IRAN)
Here's an object lesson why socialist programs nominally for the benefit of the poor end up hurting the poor along with everyone else.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Angry Iranians attacked several gas stations in protest after the government suddenly began long-threatened fuel rationing, while many others rushed to fill their tanks....
The Oil Ministry announced the start of rationing Tuesday night, just three hours before it was due to begin at midnight. Some stations in Tehran had lines more than a half-mile long as drivers tried to get one last fill-up before the limitations kicked in....
"Is this good timing, to announce rationing only three hours before it starts?" complained Ahmad Safai, a 30-year-old shopkeeper who was in line. "I had no gas in my car's tank when I heard the report...."
Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in the 2005 election based largely on his promises to improve the faltering economy. But his failure to do so has sparked widespread criticism.
"This man Ahmadinejad has damaged all things. The timing of the rationing is just one case," said Reza Khorrami, a 27-year-old teacher who was among those lined up at one Tehran gas station before midnight.
Iran is the second-biggest exporter in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. But because it has low refining capability, it has to import more than 50 percent of its gasoline needs. To keep prices low, the government subsidized gas sales, saddling it with enormous costs.
Under the rationing plan, owners of private cars can buy only 26 gallons of fuel per month at the subsidized price of 38 cents per gallon.
If Iranian drivers are like American drivers (and I bet they are), right about now they're feeling the same love for Ahmadinejad as we used to feel for Jimmy Carter during the 1979 oil crisis (coincidentally caused by another Iranian madman). This could be the beginning of the end for Ahmadinejad's regime.
It got a little ugly, and it may yet get worse:
Iranians smashed shop windows and set fire to a dozen gas stations in the capital Wednesday, angered by the sudden start of a fuel rationing system that threatens to further increase the unpopularity of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Police were sent to guard some stations after the violence, and there was calm during the day as motorists lined up to fill their tanks under the new restrictions.