EDITORIAL: Governments should keep populace informed on gasoline

Monday, September 22, 2008 at 2:08am

As America tries to change its attitude about energy sources and consumption, it is imperative that government keep up — not just in terms of regulations but in guiding the populace.

After all, what is leadership — or governance for that matter — other than guidance? We are not talking about a new nanny-state where people are preached to daily about the mores of a smaller carbon footprint. How about if government started the process with just a little old-fashioned information and some accompanying suggestions?

There was a growing sense of panic in Nashville and surrounding Middle Tennessee counties last week that hit a crescendo Friday around lunchtime. The problem — the region was clearly running out of gasoline.

Filling station after station sat with cellophane bags draped over pump handles. Angry motorists — many of them working class folks — sat idly in long lines that stretched down city blocks waiting for their turn at gas stations lucky enough to have product.

At that point, it was not a matter of people senselessly “hoarding” gas in most cases. It was more a simple need to get somewhere — to pick up kids from school, make it to work or to commute back to a donut county.

There was a great deal of speculation as to the problem keeping the gas out of Nashville but very few answers. Essentially, the lack of gas was a weather problem. Hurricane Ike took out the power for many oil refineries in the Galveston, Texas area. The Colonial Pipeline from Texas pumps most of the gas Middle Tennessee uses, and its supply was down as refineries were off-line.

Gasoline has slowly started to make its way back to Middle Tennessee pumps. The question now is: What have we as a community learned from this mess?

Let’s start with a lesson for governments both state and local. Government does not need to treat gasoline availability like a market issue. Government needs to stay on top of the gasoline availability issue and communicate at length with the public when a shortfall is anticipated.

Last week, Gov. Phil Bredesen’s office rolled out an explanation late Friday, which read like an admonition to essentially “stay calm.” What was needed was for some arm of Tennessee government to be more aware than the general populace that this kind of shortage of a very essential commodity was going to happen. The next step would then be to over-communicate the facts to people directly and to the media.

Metro Nashville government should follow suit. Mayor Karl Dean also came out with a statement over the weekend, long after the fear had already set into folks about gas availability and true hoarding had begun.

The lesson for government is that nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of good, proactive information from our elected leaders on this kind of crisis people will simply do what feels safe and prudent. That may not always be the right answer.

It is all too likely this kind of issue will become more a fact of modern life and not less of one. Our world is changing in its disposition toward energy consumption, which is a very positive thing. At the same time, current energy sources are becoming scarcer and now subject to the whims of natural disasters.

As the topography of the country’s energy needs changes, we must keep in mind government cannot be all things to all people. Government cannot make gasoline exist that does not exist. At the same time, as government does with many other issues, it should include fuel availability as one of the factors it watches on our behalf.

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By: eastnashville37207 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Why TN and not all the other surrounding states?

By: waterworld on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I totally agree.Political leadership on both the state and local level has been very disappointing. There was little to no advance warning. The Governor insulted the public by telling them there was no shortage. While I imagine his limo has access to gas anyone driving in the area late last week and through the weekend could obviously see that there was not anything close to a normal supply. (note to Phil B. "its not nice to insult the intelligence of your populace.").As for the Mayor, he was missing in action until offering a vague and weak comment almost after the fact.Leaders are hired for leadership. That has been sorely lacking.And don't even get me started on the TEMA statement. If this is an example of their handling of an emergency, we are in SERIOUS trouble. Totally missing in action.

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Atlanta and NC, or so I was informed, were also not getting supplies. Either way, you talk about a Homeland Security issue~ How are doctors, emergency staff, and other critical office holders supposed to obtain fuel so that they may arrive at work to do our bidding? I saw a US Mail truck at Home Depot (waiting patiently) in line for gas on Saturday! Now that was a first! And people were doing illegal U-turns in the middle of Lebanon Pk (a 5 lane highway practically) to get to stations that had fuel lines. There were wrecks and such all over the place starting Friday afternoon, and then continuing on into Sunday. And there were verbal altercations as well. We're lucky no one was shot this weekend. For those of you who are too young to remember, this stuff happened when Carter was Pres, and it was awful back then. And it wasn't just a weekend event. It went on for longer than I care to remember. Hopefully, someone will have a better plan the next time this happens.

By: subcinco on 12/31/69 at 7:00

I agree that the government should do more to keep us informed, but I feel let down by the media as well. nationally there has been very little coverage, except for a CNN piece that suggested we weren't really out of gas we just thought we were. All the Tennessean could offer was photos of lines around pumps, but no information as to why this was happening, and the Nashvillecitypaper.com had no story about the gas shortage at all. Only a Monday morning editorial about how the people deserve more information. Indeed they do!

By: cjwirth on 12/31/69 at 7:00

The government and this newspaper should inform people about Peak Oil.According to most independent scientific studies, global oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time demand will increase 14%. This is equivalent to a 33% drop in 7 years. No one can reverse this trend, nor can we conserve our way out of this catastrophe. Because the demand for oil is so high, it will always exceed production levels; thus oil depletion will continue steadily until all recoverable oil is extracted. Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment.We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel trucks for maintenance of bridges, cleaning culverts to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables, all from far away. With the highways out, there will be no food coming in from "outside," and without the power grid virtually nothing works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated systems. This is documented in a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed: http://www.peakoilassociates.com/POAnalysis.htmlI used to live in NH-USA, but moved to a sustainable place. Anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable area with a good climate and good soil? Email: clifford dot wirth at yahoo dot com or give me a phone call which operates here as my old USA-NH number 603-668-4207. http://survivingpeakoil.blogspot.com/

By: RTungsten on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Memphis has their own refinery and no shortage of gas. Why couldn't The Governator have some of that gas from Mepmhis trucked up to Nashville? Of course Phil and Friends are not worried about gas, they are driven around in State vehicles that have access to gas.

By: sidneyames on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Let me see, the lesson in gas shortage is"Let’s start with a lesson for governments both state and local" and it's up to the government to "inform" people. Excuse me. What about people learning that running your car on 1/4 of a tank is bad for your car and can lead to running out of gas - period. We all knew that when PAST hurricanes have presented themselves, that sometimes there are gas shortages. AND this time IKE was no different. So what can the government say that would make it better. For the past 30 years, since the gas shortage in the 70's most people who are actually alive and breathing know that the possibility of gas shortage exists. So people - BE PREPARED. It's gonna get worse and you will probably have to take some responsibility. After all, the government can keep it's butt out of my car -- and that is where the gas meter is -- it's in MY CAR, optimal word MY. So it's MY responsibility to keep it full. After all, I'd buy gas before I got my cigs, beer and lottery ticket, but some of you whinners would not!

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Sidney, what some Nashvillian's found out is that even a full tank was not enough. There were lines in Hendersonville, mostly unsuspecting workers returning home who were suddenly surprised to find out that their "dependable gas station" was not so dependable anymore. Let's face it, we're creatures of habit. And I saw motorists pull up behind our car only to be told that the pumps were OUT! Seriously, I've never witnessed that one in 46 years of life! And I've lived in Houston during hurricanes, so this weekend was a real winner. We drove from Hendersonville to Hermitage Friday night, and only found 4 stations with gas, and the lines were so long that we decided it was too danderous. Be honest with yourself, and you'll agree that there are some unstable citizens out there, who when confronted with freakish/stressful situations, suffer mental collapse and become seriously dangerous. Not even a tank of gas is worth it.

By: sidneyames on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Well, I'm 61 years old and in the U.S. in the 70's we had the exact same situation. In California and Virginia, gas was rationed; you had to buy gas on even/odd days based on the last number of your license plate and it was rough, especially for people who were in a job where their car was their livelihood - the same as I am now. So, now we have to be prepared. Don't let your gas gage get below 1/2; that's just common sense. If it means a beer is passed up, buy gas. Honestly girlie, I am sick of people saying the "government, the government" when in actuality, it is MY responsiblity to take care of me. And it was all over the news. And Houston is where the gas is stored so naturally they would be ok. It was the pipeline from Houston to here that was clogged. And get ready! This ain't the worst!

By: daddy-o on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Perhaps if the editor had read and communicated this Reuters newswire from the 12th we would not be in as big a mes!HOUSTON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - The Colonial Pipeline has shut the main gasoline line between Houston and New York due to a lack of supply from Gulf Coast refineries, which have shut or slowed ahead of Hurricane Ike, according to a company statement on Friday.The Colonial's distillate pipeline is also shut, the company said.The Colonial pipeline is the nation's largest and can flow 2.3 millon barrels of refined products per day. (Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

By: sidneyames on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Also, if we, the uninformed American public would start car-pooling and stop being so -- "I gotta drive my own car to work selfish" then maybe we'd have more gas and more money. Let's face it folks, we, Americans are spoiled. What about those folks in third world countries who have no medicine, no food, no transportation and no homes. Whinners! Shut up! I'm sick of it. Maybe if you don't like American government, you should move to -- duh -- lets say china, or maybe Cuba -- or maybe Venezuela -- or one of the African countries that just slaughter thousands of people in one day. So shut up! Run your car on 1/2 full and up at all times -- even if there is NO gas shortage, do it! It works! It makes you look smart and feel secure -- if you are UN-comfortable!

By: sidneyames on 12/31/69 at 7:00

And daddy-o, the news paper "HOUSTON, Sept 12 (Reuters)" was available to anyone and everyone. So if these Internet savvy people would just mouse around the sites, they would have known. I knew! Any logical, sane-minded person who heard the word Level 3 Hurricane hitting Texas and seeing the local news with a hurricane as big as the state of Texas could have figured it out. Oh, but they were waiting for the Government and the City Paper to inform them. DUH! Does anyone besides me have an "emergency" shelter equipped with a weeks supply of dry goods and water in it -- oh and a First Aid kit helps also. Shut up Whinners!

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

So girlie drove from Hendersonville to Hermitage looking for gas. I suppose you could have stayed at home a few days and then just drove up to an empty gas station and filled up, like I did.They sky is falling!! The sky is falling!! lol

By: ycartrob on 12/31/69 at 7:00

sidney, you should run for office so we can depend on you to save us from ourselves...

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Seems kinda selfish of you sid, to not share with the rest of us where your shelter is!

By: girliegirl on 12/31/69 at 7:00

You twit.... Darling took my to dinner out there...which never happens once you have as many kids as we do. Luckily, babysitters exist. The new mall out there was so crowded, as were all the restaurants, but managed anyway. Coming back to Hermitage, we paid attention to the long lines, the honking, the yelling, the abandoned cars, and the general chaos of it all. We were never looking for gas, but found is perplexing that so many people had not foreseen this problem. I'm a Houston girl...I'd filled up days ahead. And as for carpooling, you can do that IF your job is during the same hours that others are. But if your mate has absurd hours, political ties, and a host of employees that depend upon him, there's no option for carpooling. But it sounds so sweet for others, doesn't it?

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Twit? That's a big word for you, did "darling" teach it to you over dinner?

By: revo-lou on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Probably, but, I think she might have cleaned it up for us.

By: ycartrob on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Sidney claims, "We all knew that when PAST hurricanes have presented themselves, that sometimes there are gas shortages." Now I cannot recall this ever happening. Does anyone else? Now, I remember gas prices rising after Katrina, but I do not recall ever having to wait in line for gas until this week; and I've been driving for 30 years. This seems like an unprecedented event that we should have been given a "head's up" about.

By: sidneyames on 12/31/69 at 7:00

ycartrob, that's because your brain is locked up or you're too young to remember the 1970's energy crisis. Most of us level headed people learned from that mistake. Google 1970's energy crisis and read it for yourself. Here's one quote: " The energy crisis came to public attention when an oil embargo by the Arab-controlled Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was imposed from October 1973 to March 1974 to protest U.S. military support of Israel. This was an important shift in world economics and politics, and it caused President Nixon to impose emergency energy-conservation measures. He ordered thermostats lowered to sixty-eight degrees, reduced air travel and highway speed limits, halted coal-to-oil conversions, licensed more nuclear power plants, relaxed environmental regulations, and approved daylight savings time in winter, Carpools and public transportation increased as gas stations closed or limited sales. Business and school schedules were shortened to conserve fuel." Yes, we all had to line up in 1 hour or more waits at the gas pump, plus we had rationed gas in CA and as far as I know other states had it also. Revo is old, so he should know. And Girlie is not only organized, but intelligent because she learned her lesson also. Just do the girl scout thing and be prepared. And do your history homework ycartrob. And energy shortages are not "unprecedented events" unless you are living in a BOB (that's Barack Obama Bubble)!

By: sidneyames on 12/31/69 at 7:00

By the way, that crisis lasted "OVER" 6 months; and Nixon was the first GREEN person in the country with lowering thermostats in gov't to 68 degrees; lower speed limits (wake up 70 to 80 mph lowers Miles per gallon mpg); and look at that line where it say 'carpools and public transportation inicreased as gas stated closed or limited sales'. I bet if you said that to anyone of you spoiled rotton people under 50 that you'd have a nervous breakdown and/or star into space as if we were speaking greek! Smarten up! Keep your gas pumps full regardless of a hurricane or NOT!!!!!!

By: gdiafante on 12/31/69 at 7:00

Sid, I think you're brain is locked. Rob was referring to gas shortages in Nashville being caused by a hurricane.

By: ycartrob on 12/31/69 at 7:00

sidney, I remember the oil shortage of the 70's, although I am not obsessed over it. (I also don't sleep with a roll of duct tape next to my head in case there's a chemical attack in Crieve Hall). I was talking about a hurricane causing a gas shortage, like you said.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 12/31/69 at 7:00

g and ycart, you can't talk to a psycho like a normal human being - lol!

By: sidneyames on 12/31/69 at 7:00

OK, hurricane, economic shortage, oil embargo. What's the difference? A shortage is a shortage. And the pipeline from Texas to here was and is the problem. And Nazi2, you're back to your old name calling. That's just a sign of a typical democrat. When it comes right down to it, the only thing they know how to do is lie and name call. And please don't write back and say you're a Republican. Cause if you are, then you are a poor excuse for one. And I will usually respect those who respect me and you don't respect anyone, Nazi2. Ycartrob, one man's obsession is another man's readiness! So no, you don't need a role of duct tape, but I'd say that it's O.K. for you to be prepared. After all, that's the least a good boy or girl scout can do.