Amoco dealer W. W. Leonard was turned down last fall when he asked the Department of Energy to increase the monthly gasoline allotment for his station in Clinton because, it said, he had failed to prove that his area needed extra gasoline.
So he was angry when a brand-new Amoco station opened Feb. 16 less than half a mile away -- with a gasoline supply 4 1/2 times the size his was.
"If the gasoline is available to open a new station, I say we give it to the existing stations first," said Leonard, who had asked for an increase from 36,000 gallons to about 50,000 gallons a month.
Instead, the Energy Department ordered Amoco to supply Roy M. Morauer's new station -- a gas-and-go with a cash window but no service garage -- with 164,500 gallons a month.
Leonard's anger points up an increasingly serious problem for the Energy Department: Its officials are simply not certain that the complex mishmash of regulations they rely on to allocate scarce gasoline supplies always channels the gasoline where the public needs it.
A spokesman in DOE's Philadelphia office, which handled both cases, said that because of the way the agency's regulations are written, it is not necessary for a new station to prove that it is needed.
But spokesman in DOE's central Washington office contradicted the Philadelphia office, sayng the need should be proved but that DOE's regional offices interpret the policy differently. "In Philadelphia it could be applied one way, in Denver it could be applied another way," the Washington spokesman said.
Applications to open new stations are granted by DOE "almost routinely where they are not needed" at a time when most of the nation's stations are receiving 5 to 30 percent less gasoline than they were two years ago, according to a DOE official who asked not to be identified.
Energy Secretary Charles Duncan is being urged by top aides to change the regulations on new stations, this official said.
That may be difficult to do intelligently, since the agency has said officially that it doesn't even know how many new stations it has authorized since the gasoline crisis began a year ago.
One DOE spokesman said that Leonard -- the dealer who was refused more gasoline -- "should have closed down his station and opened a new one. "He'd have been better off" under the current regulations.
Leonard was not the only person outraged by the new station in Clinton. So were a dozen other nearby station operators whose supplies have been curtailed because of the gasoline shortage.
Nearby Sunoco dealer Rober Bryant said the new station helped drive him out of business. He sold his station two weeks ago and the new owner takes over at the end of April.
"How can the DOE justify a new station in an area that is saturated with service stations that can't get enough gas to stay open the proper number of hours," asked Bryant. "It's not fair."
Bryant said he told the station because, "I'm tired of fighting it. I could have survived maybe but it would have been close."
Morauer -- the deler who opened the new station -- is a hard-working entrepreneur with a string of service stations and real estate investments who is widely admired, and perhaps envied, by other businessmen in the Clinton area.
He began planning his new station two years ago, before gasloine supplies declined. He spent a lot of money acquiring the land and building the station on Rte. 5 a few miles south of the Captial Beltway -- a major commuter route to distant suburbs and counties.
Originally, Amoco agreed to supply Morauer, but when the crunch hit early last year it told him to get a DOE supply order. Morauer applied in the normal way and got the order.
Now, he said, other dealers are "bellyaching" because they are jealous. "Sure, some of the dealers complained, but they could have done the same thing," he said.
Morauer said there is clearly a public need for his new station because it is the only one for miles on Rte. 5. Many of the other nearby stations are located on Old Branch Avenue and Allentown Road -- busy streets but not traveled by the thousands of commuters who drive up and down Rte. 5. The Philadelphia DOE spokesman said he agreed with this assessment.
To reach Leonard's Amoco or Bryant's Sunoco, for example, a commuter would have to leave Rte. 5 and drive for half a mile or so on Old Branch Avenue.
"I'm not going to hurt Bryant one damn bit," said Morauer.
Said Bryant: "Ask him if he goes out and jump-starts people's cars and fixes their flat tires. He doesn't provide service for his customers. All he does is collect his money."
This kind of dispute is normal between a traditional neighborhood dealer like Bryant and a gas-and-go dealer like Morauer.
Neighborhood dealers provide repair service and traditionally have pumped moderate quantities of gasoline at high profit margins. When the gasoline crunch hit last year, the DOE regulations locked them into moderate supplies but prevented them from increasing their margins.
On the other hand, the gas-and-go stations were able to keep their big supplies and sharply raise their traditionally low profit margins, thus increasing their revenues significantly.
Morauer's new station received a big allocation -- 164,500 gallons -- because under the DOE regulations it receives roughly the same quantity of gasoline as the nearest station of comparable type -- an Amoco gas-and-go less than two miles away that Morauer also happens to operate.
Had Morauer opened a neighborhood-type station with service bays, he probably would have received an allocation of under 50,000 gallons a month from DOE.
A department spokesman said the regulations seek to "stimulate competition. If a guy's got a lock on a certain territory, he certainly doesn't want to see another (station open) . . . We shouldn't say that because there's a shortage of supply that nobody can go into the gasoline business anymore."