The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Gas panic takes over Starkville

    For several weeks the nation has been trying to cope with the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. We in Mississippi felt and are still feeling the destruction and loss.
    However, there was a crisis that should not have happened.
    I am referring, of course, to the gas panic that has only recently begun to settle down. On the Wednesday after the hurricane, three rumors began to spread: 1) gas would only be sold to emergency vehicles, 2) gas prices would go up and 3) gas would stop being supplied to gas stations.
    The first rumor, of course, is ridiculous. This is a capitalist society, and also a society that could not deny people the ability to travel, say, from their jobs to their homes. The second rumor is, of course, inevitable. Gas prices have been going up steadily, and will continue to go up. Whether you get that half a tank of gas before prices go up will not affect your bank account that much in the long run.
    The third rumor was a legitimate fear. Obviously, the loss of many oil refineries on the Coast would cause a shortage on gasoline, especially in North and Central Mississippi. But the government, in emergency times, would have provided gas to prevent a drop in production of a state hit hard by the hurricane.
    However, the panic that resulted on that Wednesday did damage that didn’t need to occur. It raised fears that didn’t need to be raised.
    I do not put the gas stations at fault. The gas stations did the best they could under adverse circumstances. Many gas stations raised prices, either in order to deter people from getting too much gas, or just as simple price gouging. Shell stations kept gas prices low (if you call $2.69 a gallon low), and for a short time they rationed the gas out, usually at a $10 or $15 limit. This prevented people from stock-piling gasoline, and perhaps even from trying to make a dangerous trip to the Coast.
    I do not fault the people who waited in line to fill tanks and worry about getting stranded with no gas. Sure, things could have been handled better. The people with enough gas to last a few days could have waited and not taken the gas from people who actually needed it. I had three-quarters of a tank, and that lasted me for several days. That weekend, I was able to get enough gas to last me another week.
    But then, of course, there were the people with long commutes, such as my husband, who actually needed the gas. These are the people who actually needed the gas that went to topping of several people’s 20-gallon tanks.
    Of course, that’s all a part of the gas panic. That’s what panic is all about: an irrational fear. What would have happened if only people who actually needed gas filled up their tanks? Why, gas stations would have had enough gas to last through the hurricane crisis. Perhaps a few stations would have experienced a shortage, but not all of them.
    Where do I place the blame? It feels cheap to place the blame on the government and media, since those are the people we always blame first. But hear me out. How many times did the Weather Channel, CNN and all of the other news stations talk about the damage of the hurricane and not tell precautionary measures that we should take after the hurricane? What public addresses told us that we should buy food and gas normally?
    Naturally, the government and media cannot be held responsible for the actions of the citizens. The police can arrest price gougers who fill a gas can and walk down a line of cars to sell the gas at exorbitant prices. But it isn’t against the law to buy a tank of gas.
    So we have to take responsibility. We can’t forget what happened during Hurricane Katrina. We won’t. But, in the event of the next crisis, which will eventually come, we can’t forget what to do during that scary situation, even down to buying a tank of gas.

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    Gas panic takes over Starkville