The Adventure of the Great Gasoline Hunt

It’s common knowledge in the States, and probably through most of the civilized world by now, that Houston got hit by a huge storm.  Refineries are down, and there are some fuel distribution issues as a result.  This has been made far worse by the news and social media exacerbating the problem and causing a bit of unnecessary panic because people lined up to top off their tanks and stockpile extra gas cans.  As expected, this drained the supplies faster than the refill trucks can keep up.  The way it generally works is when a station gets low, an alarm sounds, and they can reorder.  A truck will arrive within half an hour or so.  Now the wait time is 2-3 days on average according to most reports.

Where I live in the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex, it’s mostly dry of fuel now.  Yesterday on the way home from work, I got stuck in a minor traffic jam because a flatbed trailer full of empty gas cans tumped over into the road.  Ironically, the cans were strapped in safely, and not one left the trailer.  The trailer itself was on its side.  Passing by that, every gas station had lines out into the street and snaked for blocks, causing further traffic issues which, of course, cause people to use more gas than normal.  And, of course, there’s always one jackass that wants to careen through the side streets at top speed between slowly moving vehicles, which invariably causes accidents and more waits.  There’s a Walmart near my house with a Murphy gas station that went dry, got a refill, and went dry again within an hour.  Some gas stations started jacking up the prices, and the attorney general has issued an edict so that price gouging can be reported.  It gets better.  This is Labor Day weekend, and traditionally we Americans are prone to road trips on long weekends.  And for those who don’t, there’s usually obnoxiously loud music and booze involved, exactly the combination needed when everyone’s angry, desperate, and suspicious of everyone else around them.

For myself, I took full advantage of the road trip situation.  My Dad and Kid Sis are a week into their three-week trip to the Pacific Northwest.  Mom is at home in the country, and my plan before any of this hit was to go visit on weekends and help out because her health issues keep her somewhat limited.  It works out nicely because it’s generally far more peaceful than my city neighbors.  Nothing quite like a gas shortage to put a crimp in that idea.  Or so I thought.  Turns out, Dad has extra gas already stocked in the garage for his various vehicles and farm equipment.  So I hit the road early this morning with plenty of gas to make the journey.  En route, I passed all manner of gas stations and truck stops.  They were either empty or packed with a line out in the street by 5 am.  It’s going to be crazy town before the day’s over, let alone before the weekend’s over.

On I35 between Dallas and Waco is the little Czech town of West.  This weekend is West Fest, and they are prepared for tourists.  I stopped in this morning, got gas at a cheap price with no waiting, and proceeded to the parents’ house.  The way I see it, I’ll stop in and grab some awesome kolaches on the way out when the long weekend is over, fill up mid-week with the emergency gas if I can’t find any gas stations upon my return home, and do this again next weekend.  And should the distribution remain an issue, I’ll keep doing this every weekend until it works itself out.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Believe me when I say I’m grateful beyond words that I have it that easy when so many in DFW and in Texas as a whole have no gas.  I’m even more grateful when I consider the flooding in Houston.  Not only do some not have gas, they have no power, no food, no water, and no shelter.  DFW is doing its part in the sheltering process, just as it did with Hurricane Katrina a few years back.

According to the Railroad Commissioner, Texas has fuel.  The nation has fuel.  They have more than enough stockpiled to last a couple of months and then some in the event of a complete total refinery shutdown, which it hasn’t come to, and those refineries will not stay down long because the oil companies love their money too much.  Distribution under normal circumstances is not a problem.  If people would just go back to filling up only when they need to, this would be a non-issue.  But they won’t until this is over, for which this is something that the system is attempting to compensate.

On the horizon is another storm that may or may not hit into the Texas gulf to complicate the matter further.  Add to that, the fuel shortage is expected to start affecting the Southeastern United States real soon, and ultimately the entire Eastern seaboard all the way up to New York and Maine.  If we get our heads out of our collective asses, the fallout of this on the gas front will be a bump in the road instead of a further disaster.  Emergency crews are needed to help with the real problems.  Diverting them to deal with high tempers at pumps, car wrecks, and all manner of other stupidity caused by this mess isn’t helping.  Add to that, crime will most certainly go up as people start breaking into houses for food and supplies or siphoning off gas from cars parked on the street overnight.  I’ve already seen that in my own neighborhood just in the last 48 hours.  It amazes me to think that back in the 30s and 40s, we were capable of dealing with Depression, massive shortages, and fascists.  Today… heaven help us if we run out of gas for a day or two.  It’s 30 pounds of stupid in a one pound bucket.

Story goes, I’m fine for now, and my backup plan is in place.  Hopefully this will blow over quickly so that those in real need can get back on their feet again.

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