A woman fills her trunk with gas canisters while other motorists silently judge her.
Motorists use gas pumps at a refueling station on May 12, 2021 in Benson, North Carolina. Most stations in the area along I-95 are without fuel following the Colonial Pipeline hack. The 5,500 mile long pipeline delivers a large percentage of fuel on the East Coast from Texas up to New York. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

OMG Please Don’t Hoard Gasoline in Plastic Bags

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Late last week, an attack by ransomware hackers shut down Colonial Pipeline, a 5,500 mile pipeline system that carries about 3 million barrels of fuel from Texas to New York every day and accounts for about half of the East Coast’s fuel supply.

Some states have already been affected by minor gas shortages but even more are being hit by the perception of gas shortages. Which had led to some truly ill-advised reactions.

Yes, in a move that is reminiscent of the Great Toilet Paper Panic of 2020 but so much more dangerous, people have begun hoarding gasoline. And some of them are just using any old containers they have lying around.

Like this person who just used grocery bags (!) without any apparent forethought as to how they would seal the bags once they were filled with gas:

Or this person who presumably swung by the Container Store on their way to the gas station:

Or this nightmare on wheels:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission should not have to be out here telling people not to put gasoline into plastic bags and yet here we are.

It’s truly astounding.

(Update: 5/14: The images of people filling plastic bags with gasoline have been revealed to be unrelated to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. They were both taken in 2019–one in Mexico and one in Houston, Texas, because bad ideas are nothing new. We’ve always been like this!)

Several governors have declared states of emergency, although that has more to do with preventing price gouging than the threat of an actual shortage. Historically, most East Coast states have been able to find alternative fuel supplies in times of emergency (like during hurricanes or one of the pipeline’s many leakages.) That’s not to say the shutdown is having no effect on gas availability but again, just as with last year’s toilet paper shortage, the long lines and limited supplies at gas stations in some states would seem to be due to fear and hoarding more than anything else.

In a strange twist, DarkSide, the Russian hacking group responsible for the attack, released a statement Monday saying they are “apolitical” and that this wasn’t about targeting a specific government or “geopolitics,” but just about getting money. They also said they’d be more careful in choosing their targets in the future so as to avoid “social consequences.”

Which is a strange thing to say given that two of the most frequent targets of ransomware—when hackers threaten to release a company or organization’s users’ private data unless a ransom is paid–happen to be hospitals and schools. I don’t know DarkSide’s policy on targeting those sorts of vulnerable organizations specifically but if they’re going to go out of their way to apologize for “social consequences,” it seems like that’s a more important place to start.

(image: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.