Saturday, October 04, 2008

Another Kind Of Drought

Gasoline is readily available now, hooray! What a wild two weeks: station after station either completely empty and desolate, or else with about 100 cars all lined up every which way and down around the block trying to get in. I'm too tired to write something amazingly coherent, so I'll entertain you with some of my thoughts about this situation. Here they are, in the order in which my brain thinks of them:

There were reports of people getting really nasty with each other, but I never saw anything like that. I heard an interview on the radio with a tanker truck driver who was being stalked by drivers and accosted by angry drivers when he got out of his truck. Like it's his fault. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Governor Perdue put the blame on us residents of metro Atlanta, calling the panic "self-induced." It's really all our fault, see. Oh, here's an AJC article from September 24 (registration required) where he says:

“There is ample fuel in the city,” he said. “It’s not everywhere it needs to be, but we do not have a crisis in the sense that we don’t have fuel coming in.”

That ain't ezackly so, Sonny. He is obviously a complete fool for believing that we are complete fools. Does he even know what the word "ample" means?

Also, where was he with a prayer session on the Capitol steps? He prayed for water last year, but gas isn't important enough to bother the deities about? Oh right. He was out of the country. Because state governors need to be visiting foreign countries instead of doing their day jobs, you know. Must be planning to run for VP one day.

Here are the main reasons for the shortage, from what I can tell:

  • Hurricanes Gustav and Ike--what are you going to do? Hurricanes happen (well, 'ardly hever in 'Artford, 'Ereford, and 'Ampshire, but I digress). Sometimes they mess up oil refineries.
  • Price Ceilings. Price ceilings (in the form of "anti-gouging" laws) create and exacerbate shortages. Obviously, most politicians don't understand even the rudimentary basics of economics (as demonstrated this week in Washington). Makes me want to thwack them on the foreheads until they figure it out.
  • Fuel Mixture. Because of our stringent fuel requirements, we can't just get any old kind of gasoline here in Atlanta. Those requirements messed up the delivery of the fuel that was available and by the time the restrictions got lifted, it was too late.

It could have been much, much worse. We're lucky that Perdue didn't decide to activate the full real live emergency plan "which could have set minimum and maximum purchases at gas stations and restricted the days on which motorists could buy fuel." Next time will certainly be worse--and no doubt we'll get blamed for it, too.

It's a strange, uncomfortable feeling, not to be able to find gas for our vehicles. To restrict our travel, not because we wanted to, but because we needed to. I felt more appreciative of the oil companies (yes! those big baddies!) and all of the peopleguys who work at various jobs along the supply chain, ensuring that gas is available to stations all over the country each and every day. It's easy to take such products for granted, but the truth of the matter is that gas doesn't just show up out of nowhere. People must produce it and deliver it. In the words of one astute individual:

“No one was surprised,” said Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, who consulted with state officials on their response. “But it’s very difficult to plan. The reality is, state government can’t make gas.

Reading that last sentence was amusingly refreshing. Nice to know that there are still some people out there who acknowledge that fact. Sadly, too many people look to the government to conjure up goods and services. Certainly government officials wish it were possible to do so--just think of the job security! The voters would never vote them out of office!

One final musing: when things rumble and bump in our economy, due to natural causes or government-made ones, shortages like our gas situation are going to occur. Big bumps, big problems. In my more paranoid moments, I wonder what will happen if the economy goes boom! I shouldn't take it for granted that I'll be able to find gasoline. Or insulin. How hard will that be to find in an emergency, with the government "helping" with price ceilings and regulations that will shackle the very people who make it and the people who need it. It's very scary to contemplate showing up at the pharmacy and facing an insulin shortage. Because you just expect it to be there, just like you expect gasoline to be at the gas station. Damn.

I'm rambling now. I'm too tired to spend much more time on this post, so I'll just put it up there, in its "unpolished" form (which, as you've no doubt noticed, I often do!). Thoughts welcome.


Mark S. said...

How irresponsible of you "little guys" down there to have runs on all the convenience stores for all the "ample" gasoline. Don't you know that it's governments guiding hand that should keep people from "using more than their fair share" so that everyone else has the gas they "need", regardless of how the gas is drilled, refined, or transported, and whether or not you value it enough to pay the price for the freedom of personal transportation? Wag of the finger to you Jenn... (seriously though the insulin thing is a very scary thought)

Liriodendron said...

A truly great post. I've missed your writings now that you've been busier.

Yup. It's pretty scary to think of these things not being available. I've given a great deal of thought over the past few months as to what I would do without conveniences. Like food. Food certainly wasn't available in the Great Depression so I have no reason to think it would be in 2010.

We live at 8300 feet. It's rather hard to grow food up here. I could have chickens and do have bees but I wouldn't be able to live off honey and eggs forever. There's not much possibility of turning our boulders into a garden. So, I'm seriously considering scrimping and saving to buy some land in some more appropriate area (think subtropical) in a few years in a move toward self-sufficiency in a variety of arenas (food, fuel, energy, etc.). Combined with the moves our government is making to control our transportation, our licenses, our food, the financial industry, and the monitoring of probably everything I type I think such thoughts are not unwarranted. Personally, I think Atlas is shrugging. I'll do what I can activism-wise but I'm not going to spend a vast majority of my time trying to save a sinking ship.

And to admit that? Wow. That's scary.

mtnrunner2 said...

>Also, where was he with a prayer session on the Capitol steps?

LOL. Touche. I don't think GW has been doing his job praying for the national economy, either. Slackers.

One thing is for sure, no matter what happens, greedy businessmen and our allegedly "free" markets will take the blame for anything that goes wrong, and few will notice or appreciate when it goes right.

I heard from a relative in NW New Mexico that some well owners have a problem with people stealing the unrefined gas right off their property, because sometimes you can use it as-is right from the well. I had no idea.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

The Chem Geek Princess is reading Atlas Shrugged.
Tonight, when we talked about what you all are going through in the southeast with gas, she reminded me of Robert Stadler's thought that bad weather did not used to make oil shortages.

Your fault? I think it's years of restrictive regulations so that there are only a few refineries left in the country.

And something else weird is going on, too, because we have plentiful gas here in NM and the price has come down.

Anyway, we are thinking seriously about self-sufficiency as well. But getting the necessary medications for The Boychick's needs--that is a scary thought.

Insulin. It needs refrigeration, too, doesn't it? Do you have a generator? I believe that Volume II of "The Way Things Work" does explain how to make insulin. Those books are good to have in case of . . . Atlas shrugging.

Liriodendron said...

Elisheva, that's interesting. In the back of my mind all day yesterday I was wondering whether you could isolate insulin at home. I have not investigated it, but you can do some pretty amazing things, such as isolating DNA at home.

The main issue is whether you'll be able to obtain the materials necessary for the isolation in an Atlas Shrugged world. But it's definitely something I'd be checking out.