Someone shared a photo with The Greeneville Sun on Tuesday of a customer leaving a Walmart pushing a shopping cart overflowing with what appeared to be red, 5-gallon cans, the kind typically kept in a shed to store lawnmower fuel or in a truck bed or trunk for use in case of emergency.
We hope that person wasn’t planning to fill all those cans with gasoline, but given this week’s events, that could very well be their intended use.
And it really makes no sense.
Yes, the Colonial Pipeline, a major artery for automobile fuel on the East Coast, was shut down Friday after an attack by what federal officials have called a criminal gang of hackers, probably based in Russia, seeking a “ransom” from the company. But Colonial is still providing fuel by operating part of its system manually and shipping it by other methods including tanker trucks and rail cars. Meanwhile, the company said this week it’s working on the problem and expects to have most of its system restored by Friday. And we’d bet the company is also looking at how its system was compromised in the first place and taking steps to prevent it happening again.
That optimism hasn’t spilled over to drivers, who have been lining up at the pumps and draining gas station tanks in the Southeast, including at least one locally by Tuesday evening. It’s that kind of “panic” buying that is driving down available levels of fuel, not the situation with the pipeline, say government and industry officials.
“It’s the panic that creates the shortage,” Mark Freshour, operations manager with Greeneville Oil & Petroleum, told reporter Cicely Babb on Tuesday. “If everybody used exactly the same amount of gas as usual, we’d be fine.”
Freshour said the company typically has a one- to two-week supply on hand for its local stations, but that’s based on drivers buying gas when they need it, and then buying what they need, not filling every vehicle and container they can get their hands on all at once.
In other words, rushing to buy all the gas over worries there won’t be any gas is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“It creates havoc when people get five and 10 times what they would normally use,” Freshour said. “Don’t panic, and there will be some gas.”