Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace

The GM strike could be almost over

Oct 17, 2019

Latest Episodes

Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
This Is Uncomfortable
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy
Marketplace Morning Report
Download
HTML Embed
HTML EMBED
Click to Copy

How a gas shortage got worse with panic buying

Marketplace Contributor Sep 23, 2016
Share Now on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Zeroed out: A a Shell station in Nashville was out of gas earlier during the Colonial Pipeline closure.
Chas Sisk/WPLN

If you drove past a gas station in Nashville last weekend, you might have seen bags over the pumps or else a really long line of cars. Not even minor celebrities were spared.

At an Exxon station on Monday — which had gas and no lines — Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern was finally filling up. His car was almost on empty.

“I was 0 for 6 on Saturday, 0 for 3 yesterday, and then I called about four stations this morning. This was the first one that had it,” he said. “I told my wife to, first of all, have her phone by her just in case I ran out of gas, and then to have our second car ready to go.”

This hassle — and a rise in gas prices that also started over the weekend — came after a leak was discovered Sept. 9 in the Colonial Pipeline, which is Tennessee’s primary provider of gasoline. The pipeline’s closure meant some gas stations weren’t getting enough fuel, said Mike Williams, executive director of the Tennessee Petroleum Council.

But the decrease was manageable — until, abruptly, a full week later, people started noticing it. Reporters started reporting on it. Then the governor declared a state of emergency, which really just allowed fuel transporters to work longer hours, but it sounded alarming, Williams said.

“The buying public starts getting nervous,” he said, “and in this case, they got so nervous that they rushed out and bought every drop of gasoline there was.”

Gas stations in the Nashville region reported a 50 percent spike in customers last weekend, according to the Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association. Prices in Nashville rose sharply — 20 cents per gallon over the weekend, according to GasBuddy.com — and many stations ran out completely.

So which comes first: the shortage, or the panic over the shortage, that made it worse?

“I would say that probably about 90 percent of this was caused just by panic buying,” Williams said.

But Mary Holcomb, a professor of supply chain management at the University of Tennessee, didn’t completely agree. Yes, there was huge spike in demand, she said — but a pipeline closure is also a very real disruption in supply.

“As best I can tell from the numbers that were reported, we are only receiving about a third of the supply that we ordinarily would have,” Holcomb said.

She said Tennessee would have seen shortages no matter what. The panic just sped it up.

Now, things are returning to normal. Colonial Pipeline restarted Wednesday evening, which means Nashville get its full supply of gas again in the next few days.

If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air.  But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.

Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.

When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.

Check Your Balance ™️
Check Your Balance ™️
Personal finance from Marketplace. Where the economy, your personal life and money meet.

Thank you to all the donors who made our fall drive a success!

It’s Investors like you that keep Marketplace going strong!