Thoughts on the Gas Shortage in Nashville

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In case you haven’t heard, we are having a little gasoline problem here in Nashville. The problem is that most of he gas stations don’t have ANY gas.

This is very scary for the less-than-obvious reasons.

The basic problem is that a rumor started that Nashville was going to run out of gas. From what I heard the rumor seemed to be based on a pipeline that runs to Nashville from Houston, TX. Supposedly that pipeline was only going to be running at 25% for a month. As this rumor spread people started lining up at gas stations. First regular sold out, then mid grade, and last night I saw people lining up 50 deep to buy Premium gas at $4.40. Not only were they filling up their cars, but they were also filling up extra gas cans, lawn mowers, etc. It was completely irrational.

People were lining up 50 deep to buy gas at $4.40.

This morning I saw gasbuddy.com had a station in the Nashville area listed as selling gas for $4.79. I am sure people were lining up for it. As I was riding my bike around this morning I saw people lining up at Kroger in anticipation of a tanker truck showing up. It was completely irrational.

Irrational, but understandable.

People have panicked and there hasn’t really been a calming voice. Until this morning, most of the media (new and traditional) has exacerbated the problem. TV stations started broadcasting lines of cars. It was like 1973 all over again. News Channel 5 had their helicopter up in the air broadcasting lines at gas stations. The Tennessean reacted by publishing which station still had gas. Even the well-educated early adopters of Twitter helped spread panic by trying to be helpful and listing which stations still had gas. By the time of the evening news every single station had camera crews filming lines of cars at gas stations.

Where was the local leadership?

Why did Mayor Karl Dean not give a prime time televised address explaining the gas supply situation? Maybe he was too busy to give a televised address; maybe he was driving all over town looking for gas. (Lots of people drove great distances yesterday to fill up on gas). If I was the Mayor of Nashville yesterday here is what I would have done:

  1. Hopefully I would have been closely watching Hurricane Ike to know how it was affect gas supplies in Nashville.
  2. As soon as I heard that people were lining up at gas stations I would have talked to every major area distributor to see if they were expecting supply disruptions.
  3. I would have then immediately sent out a press release injecting facts into the situation. The press release would have stated the details on any supply disruption, provided details on how long any supply shortage would last, and encourage conservation and rational buying habits.
  4. I would have picked up the phone and called The Nashville Post and strongly asked them to redistribute the press release. (The Nashville Post is a subscription only breaking news service with a readership full of leaders and influencers. They sent an email yesterday afternoon titled “Don’t pass gas. You might need it.”)
  5. I would have given a prime time televised address restating the information from the press release as well as any new information.

I think with those 5 simple steps the panic could have been avoided. All we as a community needed was some effective leadership.

From watching the past 24 hours in Nashville I wonder if there is a growing universal sub-concious feeling that something is terribly wrong. Does this sub-concious lead us to assume bad situations are much worse than they really are? Wouldn’t this make us more susceptible to irrational behavior?

Update: Apparently the Nashville Gas Panic is now a national story.

15 Comments

  1. Ok I admit it I was one of those who waited in line and got gas in my car and in my can. But I never waited over 15 mins to get it. And I did it twice in two cars. I never even knew what was going on, I did it just because everyone else was freaking out. I figured the knew something I didn't. I later found out about the whole pipeline thing. We own a small business and no gas means no work and no work means no $$. UGH!!! I understand why people freaked out. It's kinda scary to think that you couldn't go to work or get your kiddles to school. Basically it leaves you feeling a little helpless. I am taking a little deeper breath now that I know I have two cars filled and a reserve if I need it. Yes, I am one of those that freaked and I was thinking about going out now..2 am. To see whats out there…tee hee.

  2. An amazing display of "every man for himself" over the past week in Middle Tennessee. Imagine what it would be like if we had a *real* crises…

  3. This is so crazy, and I think that if something along the lines of your 5 steps had been followed, a situation like this would not have occurred. I'm just shocked as this is my first experience with not being able to drive up to any old service station and fill up. I want to think that my fellow Nashvillians are smarter than this, but I can't but think much of the problem is just people, and the fear of running out of gas. It's just not something that concerns me so much. If I literally ran out of gas, I just wouldn't go to work. I hope this whole mess will just be over soon. I do enjoy watching the live webcam on the tennessean.com of the Exxon on 12th and Broadway though. It's pretty comical

  4. The problem with the government is they don't think straight, that is why your complete rationalism (is that even a word) is so refreshing, because it is never found in government and the pundits always do the opposite of the government to the other irrational extreme.

  5. The question now, with actual panic caused shortages, when will the behavior subside? I saw a station recieve a gasoline truck on Saturday, only to have that amount sell out by that afternoon. Again!

    The fact is, most in this area have insanely long commutes as it is, and cannot afford to be at one end of their run without a source of gas to return home. So we are going to top off more often. I usally use a tank and a half to two tankfuls a week, and fill up every 350 miles or so, between 3/4 of a tank and empty. Am I a bad person for filling up every 200 miles now? When you can rely on gas being available, there is no change in buying behavior. But this behavior never should have started in the first place. I suspect sales are going to be double or triple typical volumes for a couple of weeks.

    And the rumors fueling this were in place before Ike had even neared Miami, when there was plenty of gas to be had. The effects of the rumor were felt more than an hours drive away.

    Stations actually run out all of the time, on their typical buying schedule, but the volume of sales remains constant enough. Usually.

    Using the situation as a reason for allowing price gouging brings on conspiracy theory, and if you want to be totally honest, the early rumors were not about NO gas, as much as they were about, the price is going to rise.

  6. I apologize up front for this post, but I am dismayed by all of you blaming "the people" for panicking. A little leadership from our political leaders would've calmed many nerves, and this leadership was completely absent. Why is it so laughable that people were worried about not being able to take care of their daily necessities? What about home health nurses treating sick patients? What about those who rely on the money they bring in daily to support their families? Say what you want about the panic- but there really was no gas to be had- with no notice given. Why aren't there more questions being asked about how this could happen in one of the largest cities in the country, instead of blasting the poor "hicks" who you obviously feel superior to?

  7. Here's your leadership in crisis (and crass) mode:

    http://www.bubbleply.com/player.aspx?pid=35c56117

  8. If you'd let the gas stations price gouge, you'd have all the gas you want, shortage or no shortage.

    Every man for himself changes a little when he has to outbid the other guy for the same gas. Harmony reigns.

  9. I understand running a business and needing gas, but I still believe that people buying more than they truly needed has made this little blip turn into a HUGE problem. Tack on the crowd mentality, like you meantioned Momster, you assumed they knew more than you…. bad assumption! :) and I'm sure everyone just got crazy and thoughts, I NEED ALL THE GAS I CAN BUY….! What a true waste of money.

    What is gas really did run out? What would happen? Would you be fired if you couldn't come to work? No, I really doubt it, and if you did, well then that is just a bad place to work. Would you need to think of other ways to move around this city, YES, is this a good thing, YES!

    At this point I think there are some good things that can come out of this *shortage. I hope people rethink ALL their trips by car. Do you really need to drive to lunch when it's just 1 mile down the road? Can you ride a bike to work? Can you befriend a co-worker and carpool? These are all things that people say they are considering as gas prices raise, but few people are truly changing their driving habits. I believe many Nashvillians have too much money for their own good, and paying $4 a gallon still doesn't deter them from driving circles around town in the cars that get 15 mpg.

    A true gas shortage really does make people consider "what will happen if I don't have gas and I'm stuck at home. Am I really stuck? Can't I walk anywhere, or ride a bike anywhere I want?" Be creative people!!

    Unfortunately now gas prices will just continue to leap frog up and up and up. Come down a smidge to appease the public, then jump up 30 cents again and again and again.

    Good luck out there everyone… and remember, it's not Mad Maxx and the Thunderdome.

  10. Nashville is not alone. Many many stations in Atlanta metro are out of gas right now.

  11. Rather than yelling at the media (which, anyway, we all know is like Crazy Aunt Edna in the attic foretelling doom from the pigeon droppings), I would be asking why the gas stations were charging so much for gas if there was no real shortage, and why they weren't telling their customers to calm down.

  12. I live in Bellevue, and it is comical. A tanker pulled in to the Mapco at Sawyer Brown Rd, and before he could engage the air brakes, cars started lining up at the pumps. I drove to fairview 15 minutes down the road, no lines, gas available. A 45 minute roundtrip for gas at 3.75 a gallon, comfortable drive, and the people who had lined up at the Mapco were still waiting for the pumps to start up, lol.

  13. so… in other words, this is why we need "price gauging"… if the gas stations in nashville would start charging $5, $6, $7/gallon, people would be a lot more hesitant to fill up every car, lawnmower, bucket, teacup and plastic bag that they owned with gas… and a lot more interested in finding out if a real "shortage" exists… and this situation would resolve itself… of course the gas station owner might go to jail or get blamed in some newspaper, but he would have actually solved the problem…

  14. What's happening in Nashville is amazing when you consider that the Houston area did NOT panic. And we really did have a gas shortage, including no gas stations open for 100 miles north of Galveston. Slowly, a few stations started to get gas.

    I made a point of filling up about 150 miles north of my home in southern Houston when I returned after Ike. The local paper published a web page that let people find open gas stations by zip code. When I refilled there was no line, even though there were only 4 stations in my zip code with gas. Now, most stations are back open with gas and no lines.

  15. You are so right. Most of the country thinks we are a bunch of hayseeds. This panic only reinforces those beliefs. The local news stations are worhtless. The Mayor and Governor are hiding somewhere. AAA South told me it is not their responsibility to advise thier customers where they could find gas. Fascinating that this is the only area in the country that panicked. I suppose we should all go to the grocery and get some milk and bread just to be prepared. What an embarrassment! I am ashamed to even tell people that I live here.The reporters on CCN were obviously trying to hold back their laughter when they broke the story. It is not funny, it is sad.

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