Tuesday was a rare day, one in which an emerging issue has yet to be given the poison pill of partisan politics.
Sunday, the Colonial pipeline, which provides about 45 percent of the gasoline to the eastern United States was shut down as a precaution after the discovery of a ransomware attack on its operational systems.
The response was sudden and predictable. In many places, people began to stock up on as much gas as possible, filling not only their vehicles, but every gas can they owned.
Yet, within 48 hours, elected officials everywhere spoke with a rare unified voice: There is no need for panic. There is no gas shortage, only a temporary disruption of the supply chain as gas retailers turn to alternate sources for what remains a plentiful gas supply.
Locally, Dutch Oil VP Matt Bogue said there are several alternatives to the gas provided through the Colonial pipelines. Even if a store runs out of gas, there is another store nearby that will have gas, he said.
In some respects, the panic buying is comparable to consumer reaction to news of an impending storm – there’s a run on break and milk. Last year, for reasons we still can’t figure out, there was a mad rush on toilet paper as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.
If unnecessary panic-buying does create a shortage, it could affect people’s ability to go to work or school or make other necessary trips.
Think of what’s happening now as something we have all encountered at some point. You are driving down a road and come upon a sign that says, “Road Closed” and another that shows the detour route.
This does not send you into a panic. You regard it as a mild inconvenience and simply take the detour route to your destination.
The same should apply in this case.
There is no need to panic. In fact, panicking is probably the only reason the feared shortages may become a reality.
The message from everyone in a position to know is simple. If you need gas, buy it as you would normally do. But leave the gas cans at home.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.