Reflections in a Gas Shortage
This week I left Houston, where there was no gas crisis, to go to Asheville, North Carolina, where that’s the only thing that anyone is talking about. The fact that i just went from where the pipeline produces fuel to where people depend on that missing fuel wasn’t lost to me.
The gas crisis has been created by a hack of the Colonial Pipeline…and by the panic buying of consumers.
In many ways, it’s another take on the great toilet paper shortage of 2020. When people bought up unexpected quantities of items in the supply chain, they supply chain can’t keep up. We’re a country where we have an expectation of boundless, limitless goods. We don’t expect scarcity in our staples and we don’t respond well as a nation when we are confronted by unexpected scarcity.
We also have a world designed to have on -demand delivery. Things aren’t stockpiled and warehoused like they were a century ago. When something goes wrong, this on -time delivery system is thrown totally out of whack.
All of this mess created by the hackers disrupting one pipeline clearly points to a need to add more resiliency to both the transportation and fuel delivery systems.
Maybe that resiliency comes with improved public transit, so we don’t have to depend on gas sucking vehicles? Maybe that’s increasing supply chain storage for gas and jet fuel around the country? Maybe it’s adding more train lines so that I can get back to Texas without worrying that my plane is going to have to stop for gas in Chicago? (The New York Times reported that apparently airports only store 3-5 days worth of jet fuel at a time.) This gas crisis points out things that need to be addressed by Biden’s infrastructure bill.
It’s amazing how the sudden lack of a critical item that I don’t think about very much–even though I grew on in the oil patch side of Houston–has changed my planning and awareness. This week I’m driving slower, not making any unnecessary trips, and trying to coast when going downhill, all to preserve the gas in my rented gas guzzler. I never thought I’d re-experience the gas lines of my 70s childhood.