As state and federal officials try to find alternate routes to deliver gasoline in the southeast U.S., after a pipeline hack and panic buying, some people have seemingly turned to putting gasoline in non-authorized containers that could be unsafe.
The nation's largest fuel pipeline runs from the New York City area to the Gulf Coast but supplies fuel for states like North Carolina, where some 1,000 gas stations were running on empty. Southeast states are most reliant on the pipeline.
Despite energy officials and government officials, saying there isn't a gasoline shortage, there was panic buying. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission even issued a tweet that warned: "Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline."
That panic apparently prompted people to fill all kinds of containers with gasoline, perhaps including plastic bags. Photos and videos of people filling up everything, up to and including plastic bags, were widely circulating on social media. One photo seemed to show several large clear plastic garbage bags in the back of a car and video showed another woman putting fuel from a pump directly into a plastic grocery bag, and then double bagging it.
That same video was found on YouTube from 2019, not from actions taken in 2021 in response to the pipeline hack. Many of the photos and video making the social media rounds could not be verified to an original source. The video below had millions of views on Twitter, without any word that it may be a couple of years old.
While the consumer safety commission tweet was widely used for comedic effect on social media, the agency also took a serious tone and warned people. It stated:
We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate they stop thinking clearly. They take risks that can have deadly consequences. If you know someone who is thinking about bringing a container not meant for fuel to get gas, please let them know it's dangerous.
"Sometimes when we put out a safety message like this people use it as a way to look down on others. We ask that instead you use this as opportunity to reflect on safety in your own life."
The commission also tweeted out a video warning of pouring gasoline around open flames. “What you’re feeling is not a lack of supply or a supply issue. What we have is a transportation issue,” said Jeanette McGee, spokeswoman for the AAA auto club told Associated Press. “There is ample supply to fuel the United States for the summer, but what we’re having an issue with is getting it to those gas stations because the pipeline is down.”
In North Carolina, 28% of gas stations were out of fuel, according to Gasbuddy.com, a technology firm that tracks real-time fuel prices across the country. In Raleigh-Durham it was worse, with 72% of gas stations out of fuel.North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper urged people Wednesday to only buy gas if their tank is low, and to report any instances of price gouging. Cooper declared a state of emergency and all of this is happening as COVID-19 restrictions on travel are easing. #gasshortage is trending on social media where
The White House said Wednesday that the Department of Transportation is now allowing Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia to use interstate highways to transport overweight loads of gasoline and other fuels under existing disaster declarations.