Weather Economy

Desperate for gas, some resort to stealing

Marketplace Contributor Nov 16, 2012
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Weather Economy

Desperate for gas, some resort to stealing

Marketplace Contributor Nov 16, 2012
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Mailman Eric Bachert lives and works in areas hard hit by Sandy. Today, the sidewalks of his Howard Beach neighborhood and his Long Beach mail route are filled with waterlogged furniture and drywall from flooded homes. Without power and heat, some residences in both neighborhoods were temporarily abandoned.

“I’m driving by one day and I see people in peoples’ driveways siphoning gas, right out of their cars,” says Bachert, “just sucking it right out, filling their mouth up with gas and just spitting it into buckets.”

Newer cars can’t be siphoned the old-fashioned way — from the side — but people find ways. In Howard Beach near JFK, John Cheperak points through the window of his mom’s white Nissan Sentra as condensation trickles down inside. The tank was full before the storm, he says.

“The seat was dismantled and they got to the gas. Right there, you see the gas tank? They take the seat out and they pop the frickin gas pop.”

The storms disrupted transportation and left many stations without fuel, and people were desperate. Last Saturday, gas station manager Mohammed Ihsan says customers camped in cars with their families outside his station just in case they got a delivery.

“It’s a line all the way back, 10, 20 blocks. I’m keep telling them we’re not getting gas, I have no idea when we’re getting it. And they’re waiting like 8 hours, for nothing,” says Mohammed Ihsan.

NYU Economist Richard Sylla blames gas shortages, and says there’s a simple fix. Let supply match demand. In other words, allow the price to go up.

“Even though it seems cold and heartless to say let’s let the price go up to seven or eight [dollars a] gallons. In fact it might cause the problem to go away sooner because  someone out there says. I’m gonna get my gasoline there as fast as possible.”

But he says, even this wouldn’t deter stealing. Luckily, unlike the 1970s, this shortage is regional and temporary and already letting up. Rationing for odd-even license plates continues in some areas but many local gas stations already have no wait at all.

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