Gas shortage: Why are Americans panic-buying gasoline now?
The past year has scarred us to an unspeakable measure. In the midst of the pandemic-induced anxiety, we’ve battled more than just the infection itself. Think misinformation, cyber trauma, protests, forest fires, anxiety, panic . . . you get the drift. The uncertainty that gripped us last year due to the pandemic & the subsequent lockdown sent people into panic mode.
That’s how we ended up with groceries running out of essentials & stores running out of . . . toilet papers. As if this wasn’t enough, this year again, people have hit the road for another panic purchase. This time the object of their affection is gas.
This gas station in Robbinsville is all out of gas. Clerk said manager told her it could be five days before they have gas again. Says phone has been ringing off the hook of people calling around to find gas @WLOS_13 pic.twitter.com/SCcwmb1Pc0
— Caitlyn Penter (@CaitlynWLOS) May 10, 2021
Are we really panic-buying gas now?
Let’s back it up a little. Here’s the situation. The Colonial Pipeline system is responsible for the mobility of 45% of the East Coast’s fuel. Last week on Friday, its systems shut down in a cyber event. According to the Sophos State of the Ransomware Report 2020, 73% of attacks result in data being encrypted & 26% of the victims actually pay the ransom, too.
In this case, hackers that are presumably based in the former Soviet Union attacked the servers, infiltrated them, encrypted the data — or, in simple terms, held the data hostage — only to be released once they were paid a fee.
What we wouldn’t have immediately registered was the impact that this would have on the economy & the human psyche. While it’s no news that cyber-attacks can wreak financial havoc, there’s been an unprecedented spike in cyber incidents since the pandemic created a surge in remote work & online classes. Reportedly, American organizations have lost upwards of $350 million this year in ransomware attacks.
In this case, the economic strain was felt in two aspects: due to fuel shortage, albeit temporary, gas prices shot up. And two, people started creating more artificial scarcity by queuing outside pumps & hoarding gas. Chalk it up to fear or selfishness if you like, but filling gas you don’t need in containers that are barely appropriate for this, makes no sense.
As the Pipeline works on the restoration of the service, panic gripped gas stations in & around Virginia, Georgia, Florida, among other states. The result? We now have dry pumps, long queues, and no end to the madness. Motorists weren’t listening even to their governors, who were urging people not to fill up their gas tanks all the way up.
Where do we go from here . . . without fuel?
Reportedly, the per-gallon price of gas shot up to $2.98 earlier this week, a price not seen in years! The impact may not subside for a while.
According to Jeanette McGee, AAA spokeswoman, “This shutdown will have implications on both gasoline supply and prices, but the impact will vary regionally. Areas including Mississippi, Tennessee, and the east coast from Georgia into Delaware are most likely to experience limited fuel availability and price increases, as early as this week. These states may see prices increase three to seven cents this week.”
The fact that the fear of a gas shortage has led to a gas shortage . . . the irony is not lost on us. Neither on the Twitterati.
First toilet paper and now gas? What kind of drugs is 2021 on? #GasShortage2021 pic.twitter.com/HgxPruNFJL
— Humphrey Blackwell (@dangerwolf93) May 12, 2021
Finding humor & memes amid gas shortage
People have picked up on this rather abhorrent side of human behavior, which explains why there’s a flurry of memes.
Who did this?!😂😂😂 #GasShortage2021 pic.twitter.com/pJRJWdQIIv
— .elle.ash.lee. (@deathinalibrary) May 12, 2021
Like this one which is a major throwback to last year’s toilet-paper buying phase.
Electric car owners right now… #GasShortage2021#Gasshortage No Lines pic.twitter.com/SmDXa3Juzf
— Convenience Store News. (@CStoreNews_) May 12, 2021
Or this one, alluding to how electric car owners are finally getting a chance to show off their prized possession in all its complicated glory.