Brother, Can You Spare A Gallon?

(Re-posted from a comment left at O. Willis.)

Atlantans prefer driving over mass transit by a substantial margin.  It could be argued that more of us would hop on MARTA if only the system were more expansive, rail especially.  But take away our ability to hop in the car on a whim and go from the suburbs to downtown or vice versa, and people get mad in a hurry.  And that is exactly what the gas shortage has done.

Here is how the week has gone:  I pass about five gas stations during my eight mile morning commute from home to work.  Of these five, only one has been likely to have gasoline.  That one station will have lines of cars stretching out for a quarter-mile or more.  Co-workers of mine have waited in such lines for almost an hour.  And yes, people have run their tanks dry this way.

Our gasoline is brought up from the Gulf by companies like Colonial Pipeline.  The pipeline pulls the fuel up to distribution centers.  Tankers take the product those final miles to the stations.  Gas stations get shipments of around 3,000 gallons at a time, from what I’ve read.  Normally, this is enough to get them through most of a week.  But with everyone and their cousin lining up at the sight of an arriving tanker — people have been stalking tanker trucks, by the way — 3,000 gallons is gone before lunchtime.

So why do they all line up?  Because we have no reliable information.  We cannot plan.  News from earlier this week hinted that supplies should be back to normal by this Wednesday (it wasn’t) or next Wednesday.  Our governor told us yesterday that the situation will settle down in “a few days.”  He said also that this is a panic we’ve made ourselves, unhelpfully.

So yeah, people here are panicking a bit.  But not without reason.  Empty my cupboard, then don’t tell me when I’m going to eat again and I’m probably going to seize the next opportunity to grab a bite.  If only Colonial Pipeline would keep us in the loop.  Or maybe if our Governor would institute a plan of action, like maybe closing stations for a day or two, long enough for all of them to get back to normal inventory.  Or they could do as stations are doing up in Chattanooga, holding people to only $30 or $40 worth of gas at a time. Limiting purchases at the pump would be annoying, but we’d get over it.

This is imminently manageable, but we are at a loss for management.

Now we’ve seen how Sonny Perdue handles a couple of major crises.  Last year, it was a lack of water, and he arrived late with a solution.  This year, we’ve a lack of gasoline, and he’s arriving late with a suggestion.  We should all just stay home this weekend, he says, because this panic is “self-induced” (and there might not be any shortage at all).  Point taken, but repeating the same advice as the local news-jockeys is the same as telling us all that we’re all a bunch of idiots who have created our own problem.  If we had the resources to do some planning, then maybe we wouldn’t be panicking.

You’re a governor, so maybe you might want to … I don’t know … govern.  And thanks for allowing us to have “dirty” gas, but why follow it up with the same “oh, it’ll be better in a few days” kind of elusivity* of information?  Dates.  Facts.  That’s what we don’t have and that’s what we need.

So … the only good thing that might come of this?  If people remember how Sonny has handled the water and gas shortages, then maybe he’ll have to go back to being a full-time vet in 2010.

* – Did I just make up a word?  Firefox thinks so.

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  • Janice

    I don’t know if I agree with you here. I feel as though Sonny is trying to downplay the fear and panic being caused by the newsmedia. I’m not saying it’s a good strategy, but at the same time, he doesn’t have a terrible amount of control over mob mentality.

    Admittedly I did change my plans this weekend due to the shortage, but it’s only because other people are creating the problem. People are reactionary – they don’t plan very well especially once they get scared. So even though we know that supply will be back to normal next week – it’s those jackholes who are filling up 1 or 2 gallons at a time that are making life miserable for the rest of us.

    I concede your point about information – and you’re right, but I’m not sure that Sonny should take the fall for this one.

  • Yes. People are jackholes. Major ones. But still, the rest of us deserve more than a “settle down, kids” from Governor Sonny.

    Also, it appears that he was given a heads-up just prior to Ike that maybe he might ought to institute some gasoline rationing, so as to avoid another panic like we had following Katrina. Admittedly, this kind of news can easily spiral into a pointless case of “what did the governor know and when did he know it?” — but any governor needs to take more initiative than he has. It’s not that we ask all that much of Sonny, after all.

    The people who should be held even more accountable are the folks at Colonial Pipeline, based here in Alpharetta. They’ve not put up a press release since September 10, and that release is all about how they’re back up to full capacity following Gustav. Now, they’re saying nothing, even though it is through their pipes that a goodly portion of our supply is coming.

  • I’m so lucky not to care. Really. I’m at work. In my house. My biggest problem is that I haven’t used my bike in so long, it’s rusted, and I can’t just hop on it and go. But I also hate queues, so the next time I need gas, I’m likely to get up at 3 a.m. to look for it.

    The local guy says that he expects the “dirty gas” rule will go into effect about the same time as everything is straightened out.

    I just laugh up my sleeve every time I see the lines about how Boortz was complaining how we were all spoiled and couldn’t budget and nothing was really happening. Nothing this bad since Jimmy Carter, but the right-wingers keep on supporting Bush/McCain.

    I guess I’m still a libertarian in that I do not expect the government to have any information, and if they have it, I don’t expect them to give it. It’s not that it’s right, it’s that I just don’t trust them, so I don’t go to them.

    Sorry, just rambling on. Maybe you can pick a thread to ravel.