Current Gas Shortage Shows How Panic Leads to Hoarding

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Hayden Creech, Staff Writer

The Colonial Pipeline, which supplies three million barrels of gasoline along the East Coast daily, was hacked last Thursday and Friday, leading to a weekend shutdown and panic. The pipeline assured people that they hope to have the issue under control as quickly as possible and that a large gas shortage isn’t likely. However, as the crazy gas lines indicate, our panic has led us to rush to fill up our tanks and hoard excess gasoline. Just last year, we had the same panicked response about toilet paper, and Americans have had similar responses throughout our history.

This response originated with food shortages in colonial America, as colonists hoarded meat and crops throughout the 1700s as British occupation placed more demands on their food supply. In the Civil War, when crop yields decreased as farmers were off fighting, families hoarded food to ensure that they could feed their families. While food is much different than gasoline, the principle is similar. By hoarding food, prices role greatly, with flour costing 10 times more than it did before the shortage during the Civil War.

Crises like the Great Depression and the 2008 Recession prompted hoarding as well, as people went through stressful times and wanted to ensure that their needs were met. COVID-19 has certainly impacted trade and many shortages have come as a result. Computer chips, toilet paper, and gasoline have been the main issues, but back in March of 2020, we stocked up on food, hoping to limit our trips to the grocery store. Even in less serious situations like snow days, we see empty bread and milk shelves.

While it makes sense that stressful situations can lead us to act differently than normal, most of our hoarding issue comes from a follow-the-pack mentality. Just yesterday as I saw the cramped gas station parking lots, I felt a sense of panic. As a few people who might legitimately need to fill up their tank get gas, people drive by and start to wonder if they need to do the same thing. Panic rises further and further as lines get longer and stations run out.

Our country has a long history of hoarding during times of crisis, but little do we realize, hoarding tends to make the situation worse. We need to stay calm so that this shortage can be short-lived because if we don’t then the issue will escalate.

 

Photo Credits: Forbes