Gas Panic

So, on Saturday after I first heard about the pipeline hack disrupting gasoline supply in the east, the story I saw said, basically, they expect gas supplies to be fine as long as they get the pipeline back up and running within 3 or 4 days.

By Tuesday (three days later), they were saying “the only reason we’re running out is because of people panicking and buying it all up”.

Can you say “conflicting information”? Sure you can. Either they were lying before when they said supplies would start running out in 3 or 4 days, or they were lying later when they said the only reason we were running out was because of the “panic” that they themselves caused with their earlier statements.

I got all the vehicles but my motorcycle filled by Sunday. I stopped and topped off my motorcycle on Monday, but I only needed a couple of gallons. On that day, the WaWa on the corner was still priced at $2.65 a gallon and it was packed (not “lines down the street” but definitely stacked two or three deep at each pump). The other gas stations were all at $2.85 and were not very busy…so people weren’t “panicking” they could see the prices spiking and were trying to fill up for less money while they still could. I paid the extra 20 cents a gallon to save time. As I said, I only needed a couple of gallons to top off my bike and I didn’t think the extra 40 cents was worth the wait. I was more concerned with just having all the vehicles full in case this lasted longer than they expected.

Even on Tuesday and Wednesday, when they were still saying that they “might” get the pipeline running again by Friday, I didn’t see any panic. I saw people heeding what they’d been told: if the pipeline stays down for more than a few days, we’re going to start running low. It’s not “panic” to proactively respond to information you’ve been given, it’s prudence. Besides, it’s not like filling up with a half tank left is using any more gas than waiting until you’re down to a quarter. Your car still gets (within a tiny fraction) the same gas mileage either way. They’re not buying any more than they usually would, just a little sooner to “get while the gettin’s good”.

Of course, I have seen the youtube videos of idiots trying to fill plastic bags or open topped trash cans with gas. Not only is that stupid and dangerous, those are the kinds of reactions I would call “panic buying”. I can’t fault people for wanting their gas tanks to be filled or even if they have gas cans at home, making sure they’re topped off, but to try to hoard gas by filling whatever unsafe container you happen to have handy is flat ridiculous (and a good way to burn down whatever structure you have the unsafely stored gas in). I wouldn’t blame other patrons of that gas station for beating people they see doing that to a pulp, or the gas station itself shutting off the pumps and calling the police when they see unsafe and illegal activity like that…but I haven’t personally witnessed anything like that. I haven’t even seen more than one or two people filling gas cans.

At any rate, now that the pipeline is running again, I expect things to get back to “normal” pretty quickly, but even so, I don’t consider responding proactively to information you’ve been given as “panic”, that’s just plain old common sense.

And I’ll continue to follow the advice I received long ago from my very wise father: “when you’re on the road, never pass up an opportunity to pee or get gas.”

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