On Tuesday, I stopped by to fill up. As I was walking into the station to pay for my gas, an elderly man said, "You got here at the right time. They are getting ready to raise the prices by fifty cents per gallon." Rather perplexed, I continued to the station and paid for the gas.
I was fully aware of the impending hurricane, and most people expected a temporary reduction in gasoline supplies as a result. Apparently, the news spread panic in the mountains. Almost every place I went that day, I heard at least one person advising, "You better get gas today." As a result of the premature panic, people flocked to the gas stations in huge numbers. I received three calls from neighbors advising me to get gas.
Adding to the panic was the local news station, advising that some stations were running low on gasoline and that prices were rising to almost $5.00/gallon for regular.
Phot0 from The Asheville Citizen-Times
I went to the grocery store on Friday. As I drove by the gas station near the store, I noticed large signs that read: Temporarily Out of Gas. When I was checking out, I overheard the bagger saying the station had sold out of regular gas on Wednesday and sold out of premiums by Thursday. Similar stories were heard from other stations in the area.
-----It is of note that there had been NO interruption of gasoline supplies at that point. The panic by consumers had dramatically increased the demand and created the shortage. There is no doubt that gasoline supplies will be interrupted for a week or so because of the hurricane. But in the mountains of North Carolina, the gasoline shortage (and price increases) began far earlier than necessary.
-----So, what's the purpose of this story? It demonstrates that panic among the public can create havoc and unnecessary cost. There are abundant stories of "price gouging." Hundreds of calls were made to the Attorney General's office. It is not likely that anything will come of the complaints. While I am not sure what constitutes price gouging, the stations raised their prices in response to an increased demand. The supply was not interrupted, it simply was insufficient to meet the demands for gas.
-----There is little doubt that supplies are now truly decreased. Prices will remain high. We will all adjust our driving habits wherever possible. And in several weeks, the supplies will return to normal and life will go one as usual. Each time the price of gasoline rises, it returns to a higher "normal" level. And we become accustomed to that. Three dollars per gallon seems a good price when you have been paying almost four dollars a gallon. What will it take for us to make changes in our lives? I wish I knew.