20110406 libya cash 18
A Libyan bank cashier gives a client outdated bank notes, which had been removed from circulation several years ago and reissued recently by the central bank due to cash shortage, at a bank in Tripoli, - 

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Libyan rebels report heavy fighting today on the main road that runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast. Those opposition forces are fighting off advances by those loyal to Colonel Muammar Gadaffi. And if that weren't enough, the opposition is running out of cash.

Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.

STEPHEN BEARD: The rebels say the situation is desperate. Oil sales have collapsed, there's an asset freeze by the U.S., Europe and others. Very little revenue is coming into Libya. The rebel-held territory is a cash economy with hardly any cash. The banks will be empty in two weeks. Thousands of workers may go unpaid.

Albrecht Ritschl is with the London School of Economics. He says the rebels will even be hard-pressed to create their own new currency.

ALBRECHT RITSCHL: Apparently they don't even seem to have a money printing press there. So just imagine the technical difficulty of printing money if you don't have the technology.

He says they may soon have to resort to bartering. The rebels have called on the U.S. and Europe to send them some of the billions they've frozen. Gaddafi and his supporters meanwhile are sitting pretty in monetary terms. They have access to the Libyan Central Bank's ample reserves of gold and dollars.

In London, I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.