Can the origins of the Atlanta gas shortage be traced to "real" sources?

What I mean is, is the shortage there attributable to some perceptible event or cause, like the hurricane, as opposed to something mostly psychological (a “bank run” on gas)?

There’s less gas in the pipeline, though that is changing.

Remember that due to hurricanes in the Gulf over the last few weeks the offshore platforms have not all been operational, though they’re getting back to business as quickly as they can. The Southeastern pipeline is heavily committed to the Gulf area for fuel.

The EPA requires many counties in Georgia to use a special formula during the warm weather months – it takes an extra step to refine – and there’s been less of it produced of late. Georgia Governor Perdue got a temporary pass on this from the EPA but he didn’t ask for until last Tuesday so it’s taking a few days for other fuel to get to Georgia. Governors in other states asked for this pass much earlier in the game and Georgia’s at the back of the line.

And frankly, there’s human intervention here as well. Between people desperately running to top off their tanks and vendors restricting sales to reserve gas for favored customers, there’s more of a panic mentality going on than is good for the business.

But mostly the problem is because there’s less fuel to go around than usual, everybody’s on short allocations, and people are buying up all the gas they can.

All telling themselves “We have to stock up before the hoarders get here”, right?

The hoarding explanation doesn’t really cut it. That might explain a one-or-two-day shortage, but not why the stations still aren’t getting timely deliveries at this late date. I spoke to the clerk at a station near my house today whose pumps went dry last week. She said they ordered a fuel delivery on Wednesday, and they are hoping it might arrive tomorrow (5 days later).

At any rate, most stations are limiting purchases to $20 (and have been doing so for several days), so hoarding is not really possible.

This is a genuine shortage, and not a result of panic buying.

One of the national news programs showed a map with a specific pipeline that was fed from a few specific refineries that had been shut down by Ike. It was easy to correlate the areas of shortages with the various branches of the pipeline.

To make it worse, most of the affected states have rules in place that only certain types of clean-burning gas can be sold there. They have - or are starting to - apply to the feds for temporary easement of the restrictions to help a larger variety of gas come in.

So, yes, there is a specific cause and it is real, not a result of panic, hording, psychology or other mental conditions. The gas is not reaching the pumps.

The Colonial Pipeline and Plantation Pipeline.

From the Wiki article on the Colonial Pipeline:

Of course it’s possible. Nothing stops people from making multiple trips. The shortage may have been real, but it is prolonged by hoarding. If most people keep their tanks topped off, not to mention filling a 5 gallon can or two, that is a tremendous amount of gasoline taken out of general circulation.

The solution to the problem is never politically popular - allow the price to float up to the point where demand is reduced to available supply. People will quit topping off in a hurry and few will store extra gas at the higher price.

I’m not clear on how this will help the problem. Right now, supply is fixed - people don’t have enough fuel and are driving less. Under your plan supply is still fixed - people won’t have enough fuel and will drive less, AND whatever fuel they do get will cost them more. But in neither scenario do I see fuel supplies increasing or more people getting the fuel they need.

Your plan would work if topping off was the cause of the problem. But since it wasn’t the cause of the problem, eliminating it won’t fix the problem.

That also makes it workable from a cost/benefit standpoint for oil companies to truck in a lot more gasoline - they can make much more money doing so if they can sell it at higher prices.

Some people would drive even less if the price were to go up.

I’m not sure why you think that a solution to this problem needs to involve increasing the supply. Decreasing the demand will work just as well, from a “not having shortages” standpoint.