What I Learned From The Great Fuel Panic Of 2016

If you don’t live in or around Tennessee, you may have missed the fact that this weekend, if you were to look at any gas station, you would think a hurricane was coming and we needed to fill our car gas tanks and evacuate immediately. It was alarming, to say the least.

The most alarming part of it was that thousands of people were acting out of fear in a way that was creating a problem.


Here are the facts:

  1. A fuel pipeline broke that supplies gas to several areas in the United States.
  2. The TN governor declared a state of emergency, not because we were running out of gas, but because he needed to make the regulations less strict so that other sources of fuel could work quickly to get fuel where it needed to be.
  3. The public was told that there would be no disruption in fuel service as long as they continued their normal pattern of driving and buying fuel.

Here is what actually happened:

  1. People heard the word “emergency” and nothing else registered.
  2. Thousands of people went to the gas station and filled up all their vehicles more than they normally would have and even bought gas cans and filled up those as well.
  3. Gas stations ran out of gas.

Here’s a link to a local new clip: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/davidson%20/2016/09/18/officials-drivers-shouldnt-make-gas-shortage-worse-panicking/90617524/

The most fascinating and frustrating part of this was that everyone thought they were the exception to the rule. They “needed” the gas because they were driving somewhere in a couple of days and wanted to make sure their tank was full and were afraid they wouldn’t be able to get any if they waited. On Friday, when the news was first spreading, people panicked. Gas stations ran out of gas because of the panic and the fact that people did exactly what they were told not to do. Instead of believing the people who actually know real facts about the fuel supply, they said, “Look! We ran out of gas! We really do have a shortage!”

Tanker trucks arrived Friday night, just like the normally do. Gas stations had fuel again in the morning. People’s fears should have been alleviated. Common sense would say that people would have relaxed a bit. They did not. Defying all logic, the public refused to believe that we didn’t have a shortage. Even with the evidence in front of them that fuel was still arriving, they behaved as if there was a crisis and ended up creating one.

They spent all of Saturday buying up all the gas in town. Again, gas stations ran low on gas.

At this point, gas stations have now sold way more volume of fuel than they normally do. People still refused to believe that we were not experiencing a shortage and pointed to the dry fuel pumps “evidence”.

Tanker trucks came Friday and filled up the gas stations.

They came again on Saturday.

They came again on Sunday.

It’s Monday morning and most folks are back to work and school and don’t have time to stalk the local gas stations to buy up all the gas and life may be getting back to normal.

But what a fascinating display of human nature.

Here’s what I learned.

When people are scared, they don’t act logically. Facts are meaningless.

I watched from my couch as I read online arguments. There was no convincing someone who didn’t want to be convinced, that this wasn’t a crisis. In fact, many were convinced this was government conspiracy of some sort.

Did you see this quote from the Tennessean link:

Executive director of the Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association Emily LeRoy said that while supply is tight in the Southeast, there is fuel available and consumers should not make the problem worse by panicking.

“The greater challenge is that consumers are buying substantially more gas than usual,” she said in a statement. “I talked to a retailer this morning who told me that he had an 8,500-gallon delivery yesterday that would normally last three days and it sold out in six hours.”

When people are scared, they think of themselves first.

Oh wow, are we ever selfish! Even though people knew there were others who had hardly any fuel in their cars, they still insisted on filling up their cars that were already half full of gas. As long as they were okay, they really didn’t care about anyone else.

The better safe than sorry approach made more of a problem.

I watched time and time again, as people said, “Well, I wasn’t going to get any gas, but everyone else is acting crazy and buying up all the gas. So, I better go get some just in case something happens and I can’t get it later.

I’m not a genius, but I think we can learn some life lessons from this 🙂 Also, if we ever have a real problem, we’re all going to die! Ha!

2 thoughts on “What I Learned From The Great Fuel Panic Of 2016

  1. I guess it wasn’t all of TN, because we didn’t have any problems over here. Our prices were a little higher and there was something in the paper about the reason for that, but I’m not aware of any problem with supply. Maybe this was because of the Rhythm and Roots Reunion this weekend keeping all the locals either home or downtown and thinking more about country music than gas!

    It kind of reminds me of up north when there was going to be a blizzard that would maybe keep you home for a day or two and people bought everything in the stores, even though a lot of us have plenty of food to last over a week or even two in our pantries and freezer. People are goofy.

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