Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Great Nashville Gas Shortage Of Ought-Eight, Part 2

We’re number 1! We’re number 1!
NASHVILLE, TENN. -Nashville continues to see the worst gasoline shortage in the Southeast, the region hardest hit by supply problems after Hurricane Ike.

Problems are also reported in metro Atlanta and Tallahassee, Fla., said AAA spokesman Randy Bly.

"But you guys (in Nashville) rate number one," Bly said.

Gee, thanks.

It’s true, every gas station I pass on my usual morning route--and there are about 7 of them--have all been empty for the past two weeks. On Sunday we passed a Mapco that had gas and the line stretched so far out into the street, the police actually had to direct traffic around it.

Apparently Nashvillians are largely to blame:

In Nashville, gas at 85 percent of the stations dried up last weekend after a rumor of a shortage caused people to rush to top off their tanks.

Yes, well, that is the Nashville way.

Even worse, Mayor Dean and Governor Bredesen have not exactly shown outstanding leadership. Mayor Dean told folks not to panic, which doesn’t work any better in real life than it does in Hollywood movies. Gov. Bredesen said he "wished there were something local and state governments could do” but try as he might he just couldn’t think of a single solitary thing.


The Nashville City Paper had a few suggestions:

The lesson for government is that nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of good, proactive information from our elected leaders on this kind of crisis people will simply do what feels safe and prudent. That may not always be the right answer.

It is all too likely this kind of issue will become more a fact of modern life and not less of one. Our world is changing in its disposition toward energy consumption, which is a very positive thing. At the same time, current energy sources are becoming scarcer and now subject to the whims of natural disasters.

In other words, local and state government contributed to the panic by failing to adequately inform the public about the state of gas supplies.

But I disagree that information alone would be sufficient. I don’t know how it works anywhere else but here in Nashville, information just allows people to feel justified in saying, “screw my neighbor, I ain’t getting stuck on empty!”

We’re IGMY (“I Got Mine, Y’all”) central. Let the weatherman whisper a hint of snow on the way, and everyone rushes to the grocery store to wipe milk and bread off the shelves--even lactose intolerant people and folks with wheat allergies. It’s how we do things here. We’re a bunch of wusses.

And I guarantee you, the next time a big hurricane is headed for the Texas coastline, people will remember the Great Gas Shortage of Ought-Eight and rush to top off their tanks and we’ll be watching this bad movie again.

When people panic, someone needs to come in and take charge. I’m remembering what we did during the Arab Oil Embargo. There were dollar limits on gas sales, and restrictions on days you could purchase gasoline: even numbered license plates on certain days, odd numbered plates on others. Would these measures work now? I honestly don’t know. Back then we weren’t commuting in from the suburbs in Hummers and Chevy Subdivisions.

I have noticed more people walking and riding bicycles. I haven’t heard of anyone resorting to violence, or “dragging the pumps out of the ground with a big vintage John Deere,” as Sheryl Crow sings.

Consider this a little training exercise in Peak Oil survival. Maybe people will trade in their Hummers for a more gas-efficient model. It can’t be fun cruising around the city as the needle pushes empty just so you can feel like you have a big penis like Arnold Schwarzenegger while looking like a giant asshole.

As for me, I haven’t panicked. I drive a hybrid, and I don’t drive much. I fill up about once a month. Luckily for me, the gas shortage hit when I had about 3/4 tank. I still have 1/4 tank left so I’m going to be good for at least another week.

But after that ... I may hit the panic button myself.