Gas shortage a wake-up on conservation

It's not a pretty picture. The blank signs where the price of gas is usually posted and the plastic bags covering the pumps, both signaling a dearth of fuel.

When stations have received gas, the picture hasn't been much better. Long lines combined with short tempers have produced some reported fisticuffs as motorists, in the words of Lawrenceville resident Andrew Hall, "fight for (gas) like a bunch of vultures around a smorgasbord."

But that's the situation Gwinnettians found themselves in this week, driving past numerous stations before finding, if they were lucky, a place to fill their tanks.

The two recent hurricanes - Ike and Gustav - are a large part of the blame for Gwinnett and metro Atlanta's gas woes, as is the fact that the metro area uses a "boutique fuel" that helps alleviate smog.

But some motorists are to blame as well. The same crisis mentality that causes people to make a run on milk and bread during winter storms has emerged in regard to the current gas situation. Some panicked drivers are topping off their tanks on a regular basis while other are hoarding fuel, making a bad situation worse.

It remains to be seen if those actions will change, but the state has asked for and received a waiver from the EPA to use a "dirtier burning fuel" - a move by Gov. Sonny Perdue that critics have said should have been done sooner. The waiver will help, but it will be gradual.

"The waivers are important, but it's still going to be dicey over the coming days," said Randy Bly, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South. "But things should start to improve by the weekend and should be a little better by the end of it. By the middle of next week, things should be closer to normal."

Normal is a relative word, considering gas at $4 per gallon hardly seems to fit that description. But being able to easily find fuel will be very welcome.

However, we should treat this as a wake-up call. We need to consider our behavior, not only when it comes to hoarding gas, but how much of it we use in general.