The Great Atlanta Petro Crisis of 2016
The signs of a catastrophic event were there. I noticed fuel prices had climbed .35 cents in a few days. Long queues formed at filling stations without obvious reasons as though maybe the Zombie apocalypse was underway and everyone was heading to the hills. Tempers were short. Georgians who love to lay on their horns, beeped each other with record frequency. One station attendant had to direct traffic around the pumps when an elderly lady pulled in the wrong way, nearly being lynched for creating a traffic jam worthy of the I-285, America's most dangerous freeway.
Still over a couple days, even though I picked up on the fact there was something amiss, I failed to grasp the seriousness of what had beset metro-Atlanta and greater Georgia. That changed this morning when I went to fill up and to my horror, discovered the half dozen fuel stations within a mile of my residence were out of petro. The only place with gas to pump was Wal-Mart and they only had super premium, which came at the super premium price of about $3.00 a gallon. It took me 30 minutes in line to fill up. When I asked the attendant what the hell was going on, he glared at me like I was from a different dimension. I finally convinced him I really didn't know, and he relented to explain the crisis to me.
Oh, those pipelines that don't leak, break or lend themselves to sabotage - all according to the oil companies - well, it seems they are wrong. Pipelines do all those things. And one spill in Alabama has drained Georgia dry and run up prices along the East Coast. By the way, this is another reason to Stand With Standing Rock. (See my previous POST)
Today, I watched as I drove around for work and the crisis seemed to worsen by the hour. Most stations are empty, sitting there lit up like ghostly relics. Prices are taken down from street signs, indicating they have no gas, or jokingly priced like above. I actually passed that sign today. One Exxon station had crime tape roping off the pumps. Another Exxon station was selling something that the sign at the pump clearly stated was NOT an Exxon product. The road traffic lightened up as people ran out of options. And to make it all seem Biblical, a deluge descended from the skies this afternoon.
At times there was a glimmer of hope. I saw a fueling tanker leave a Race Trac station just as I was passing by. I swung in and got first in line at the last available pump. A young man was racing out to yank the 'Out Of Service' covers off the pumps. By the time I had filled up, the lot was jammed with cars. People were phoning family and friends to let them know the news. I suspect that the station will be dry by midnight.
So scenes like these are playing out around Atlanta. It is a weekend so people can hang at home to conserve but what happens Monday morning when people must commute? The local news is treating this like a backstory but the ripple effect is pretty obvious. People don't go out so they don't spend money elsewhere. Those businesses suffer as well.
There is one more thing I have noticed. A crisis mentality quickly sets in. I venture to guess that panic buying has amplified the crisis. We live in a house of cards. What I mean by that is that we all know our internet is being hacked daily, our systems are vulnerable, petro supplies can be disrupted. We know that but we still take it for granted it will never happen to us. When it does, our mindsets change as though our world is falling apart.
I joked with one of my friends about the situation this morning because we both recall when we were kids there were a couple years when you could only get gas if your license plate was odd or even, according to the day of the week. Schools consolidated with each other and classes alternated because there wasn't enough energy to heat the buildings. Comparatively speaking, that was far worse but today's society is not braced for major disruptions.
I have no foresight into what happens next except that the oil companies are sure to pull an Enron and rake in as much dough as possible before things are 'fixed'. All I can say for certain is that the great Atlanta petro crisis of 2016 is underway.