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Gas lines? Rationing? Is it the '70s again?

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Frank Eltman/AP

(Read caption) Motorists in wait in line for gasoline outside a Hess station on Wednesday in Farmingdale, N.Y. The shortage of open gas stations got so dire that New Jersey has imposed gas rationing that took effect Nov. 3, 2012.

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No one who lived through the first OPEC oil embargo of the early 1970s can forget the shock of that era. The United States seemed helpless economically. And Americans realized just how dependent they had become on oil from the Middle East.

The scenes this past week of blocks-long gas lines in New York and New Jersey are eerily similar.

Taking a page from Richard Nixon, New Jersey Gov. Christie imposed gas rationing on 12 of the state's 21 counties, effective noon Saturday.

But for all the similarities, this isn't a replay of the 1970s. The challenge then was a long-term shortage of oil. Today, it's a temporary shortage of electricity.

If there is a shock to the regional crisis that now engulfs the Northeast, it's our increasing reliance on electricity. The digital age is great, but it blinks out in an instant when the power goes down and it depends on an electrical grid that's a 20th century throwback.

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