"They should put the odd-even back into effect right now," said Mobil dealer Charles R. Carrick, snapping his fingers. "They shouldn't mess around."
As he spoke, four lanes of cars, seven deep had built up at his station at 5201 River Rd. Just down the street, Exxon, Texaco and Shell stations were all closed -- at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
"I would say we're probably going to have trouble in November and December," said Carrick. "We're going to have lines, not as bad as before. We allready have lines here before the weekends. . . ."
Gasoline lines reappeared in the metropolitan area this past week as the month came to an end and dealers exhausted their supplies. More of the same may be in store for November and December as motorists move into the busy holiday season.
According to the available statistics, Washington will have between 7 percent and 17 percent less gas this year than it did last November.
Once again, Washington may find itself in tougher straits than the rest of the country. At the height of the gas shortage last July, the District of Columbia had the lowest gasoline supply ratio in the continental United States -- 83 percent of year-earlier supplies.
"I think Washington seems to be the only place where there's been any tightness [in October]," said Amoco spokesman Carl Meyerdirk. "I think I'd have to describe Washington as once again an aberration. We've had no difficulties anywhere else in the country."
Amoco is one of five major oil companies that have announced they will reduce gasoline supplies for November by 1-to-4 percent.
That is particularly important for the Washington area because the five -- Amoco, Exxon, Sunoco, Shell and Texaco -- supply about 1,000 of the 1,500 service stations here.
Figures supplied by Virginia and Maryland energy officials also show that November gasoline supplies there are expected to drop slightly compared with October levels. In the District, a slight rise is projected.
Taking all the available statistics together, it is clear that Washington motorists will have considerably less gasoline available this November than they did a year ago -- with estimates ranging from 7 percent to 17 percent less.
"Why don't you advise those Washington drivers to go 55?" asked Maryland energy chief Donald Milsten. "A lot of people tell me they get run off the road down there."
Milsten was not the only one to poke fun at the alleged profligacy of Washington's motorists, but D.C. energy chief Chuck Clinton said he thinks there are more substantial reasons for the tight gasoline supplies here. t
For one thing, Clinton said, the District of Columbia is small and has no rural areas from which gasoline supplies can be diverted -- as all the states are able to do to meet the needs of their city dwellers.
Because of this unique problem, the District of Columbia has requested a special increase in gasoline supplies. So far, the U.S. Department of Energy has not granted the request.
Meanwhile, Milsten and Virginia fuels allocation officer William Kirkland indicated they will continue to shift emergency supplies of gasoline into the Washington suburbs as needed on an individual station basis.
Many dealers interviewed this week said the only reason they did not run out of gas this month was that they received special shipments of gasoline for the pope's visit Oct. 6 and 7.
Another reason Washington supplies are tight may be what the Lundberg Letter, a respected gasoline marketing newsletter, calls "the luck of the draw." That is, some areas of the country are lucky because they are dominated by oil companies with good supplies.
Lundberg recently listed Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia as three of 11 states that depend on the five oil companies with the lowest supplies for more than 30 percent of their supplies.
The three jurisdictions, are not in as bas shape as four states in the Midwest.
The use of odd-even gasoline rationing was credited with helping to end gas lines here and in California last summer, but officials said yesterday they have no plans to reimpose the system, which was lifted Oct. 1.
Clinton said he hopes that the present buildups and sporadic lines at the pumps "will quickly pass because of worsening weather and an infusion of November [gasoline] supplies into the system."
About half the dozen dealers interviewed in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. this week said there have been lines at their stations -- usually on Friday and Monday.
Most dealers said they have been closed weekends and have otherwise curtailed their hours because of short supplies.
However, while dealers reported lines, they said most drivers are buying full tanks of gas.
"Today it was horrendous," said River Road Shell dealer Edward V. Benit. "I mean they just piled in here like there was no tommorrow -- boom, boom, boom. We finally closed down at 1 p.m." t
"We're selling next month's allocation right now," said nearby Amoco dealer Forest Pomeroy. "The driveway was full of cars all day long. I think come [November], we're going to be in trouble."
"November will be worse than October," said Ron Spurling, who runs an Exxon station at Old Dominion and Military Road in Arlington. "We had lines Friday night and Saturday. Had to close down early Saturday to save some for Sunday."
"I've noticed a surge [in sales] during the last week and a half," said Lee Highway Gulf dealer Paul Nicolet. "I guess people are running up to the mountains because we had a few nice days."
E. E. Parsons, a Texaco dealer at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road in the District said he expects to get only one load of gas during November -- 8,000 gallons.
"I'm just struggling like hell," he said, shaking his head.