Monday, September 15, 2008

A Gasoline Shortage in Charlotte NC

Stories and pictures about the gas shortage in Charlotte NC. Updates will appear at the top.

10.9.08 6:00 pm
In the Charlotte area, most fueling stations have gasoline now. I'd say 3 out 4. THe proce for regular is about $3.85. Premium grade gas is still harder to come by. At some point I might revisit this thread and try to summarize this experience, but for now I'm going to close this thread.


9.29.08 9:26 pm
Now *this* is a gas line. Glad I left GA.


9.26.08 8:26 pm Video.


9.26.08 8:22 am People are calling me to tell me about sitting in gas lines or getting trapped in traffic because of cars waiting to turn into gas stations. People, I need pictures. Remember that little cell phone you keep strapped to your belt like a colt revolver from the wild west? It's probably got a camera in it. Draw and fire off some photos. Send them to:


9.26.08 8:18 am
They're sleeping in their cars!
...a number of people in the Charlotte region slept in their cars in line over night waiting for gas to arrive, not even knowing when or if gas would arrive at their station. Read more.
Did you catch that? These people are sleeping at gas stations even without the promise of gas in reward for a bad night's sleep under a steering wheel! That is surely a sign of addiction.


9.25.08 12:58 pm Tempers Flare!
NewsChannel 36 reporters saw a fight break out at one station after someone cut in line.
It's getting testy here. One other note, my web traffic has increased substantially, mostly from google searches of "gas stations in Charlotte that still have gas" or something similar.


9.24.08 10:19 pm You should all be disappointed. This is the only picture I have of gas lines in my area.

That's because it's game over almost instantly. Last night most stations, I'd say nine out of ten, had gasoline. Tonight almost no stations have gas. It happened fast, so fast that I didn't get a chance to take pictures of the gas lines. This is the only one I could find. Oddly this station wasn't swamped like reports I've heard from others in my area- stories of traffic backed up and hour-long lines. Now it's just eerily quiet out on the roads. I'll take my cameras with me to work tomorrow and see if any other fueling stations have fuel.

One other item to report. Diesel is still widely available. A shortage of diesel would mean many more problems because diesel fuels delivery trucks and school buses. I think what we're experiencing here in the Southeast will shake things up a bit but not as much as if the grocery stores suddenly ran out of milk or the schools had to stop shipping kids all over the county.

My wife has 16 gallons in the Volvo wagon. I have 5 gallons in the Camry. We'll see how long it lasts. ;-)


9.24.08 6:04 pm - Alright now we're cooking with, um, gas.


9.24.08 4:23 pm - Perhaps gasoline shortages in Charlotte were delayed and are just now arriving. I recently talked on the phone to a coworker who stopped at 7 fueling stations before she found one with gas. Then she waited in line for an hour to get some. Here's newz coverage from last night.
Drivers backed up at gas stations including in east Charlotte and Myers Park. Police threatened to ticket people blocking traffic.Some customers waited more than 30 minutes for gas. One driver, Sherrie Harvin, said, "I was talking with a lady in Wal-Mart. She said that she was an hour late because she was trying to get gas here and she said that fights were breaking out. I mean, look, this is crazy."No one seemed able to explain the lines. Read more.
And this isn't going to help.
Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP said a fire late yesterday shut its Pasadena oil terminal in Texas, which connects refineries from along the Gulf Coast to pipelines serving the eastern and Midwest U.S. Read More.


9.24.08 2:48 pm - From a friend in Asheville, an example of social organization happening around the current fuel shortage.

If you know of stations that have gasoline today (or ones listed on our website that are out), please call 232-5964 or e-mail the name and location of the station and when you last noted that the shop was selling gasoline to [email addresses deleted]

The Citizen-Times will periodically update its coverage of the gasoline shortage with a reader-generated list of stations that still have inventory.

Read the whole story here. (Thanks Peter)


9.23.08 - 9:33 am It's been a week and the availability of gasoline has remained much the same here in the Charlotte NC region- most fueling stations have it and the price is down just a bit to just over $4/gallon.

It's worth pointing out that this is still an historically high price. Here's the 5 year chart for the Charlotte area.

Ahhh, remember the good old days(5 years ago) when gas was $1.30/gallon. ;-) I haven't updated this post because locally there hasn't been much change. I'm going to leave this thread up though and expand it to include more problematic areas of the Southeast. From Atlanta,
Across metro Atlanta, drivers in one of the nation's largest commuter cities are running into the same thing: a lack of gas and no clear idea when the situation will get better. State and industry officials say they're working as fast as they can and are urging people not to panic. Here's the whole article from CNN.
However AAA says,
Atlanta and Tallahassee, Fla. are also seeing shortages, but nothing like in Nashville, where long lines and empty pumps have been a common site since Friday morning. Read more.
Officials in TN blame both a real fuel shortage and panicked drivers stopping to top off when ever they see a station open. As always it's a coupling of real supply issues and the distortion of demand practices in times of crisis.

Places like Asheville NC and Spartanburg SC seem to be short on gasoline because they are further from terminals along the Colonial Pipeline with supplies much of the Southeast with fuel coming from the Gulf Region. Places like Charlotte which are closer to pipeline terminals are having less trouble getting gasoline. This is important because it shows how ceratin aspects of fuel delivery can and will continue to affect certain cities and counties- even those in relatively close proximity- with the result of varying levels of fuel availablity.

I'll end this update with a chart from Gail the Actuary at TOD. The emphasis added is mine. Check out her post here which explains why we aren't out of the woods yet concerning fallout from Ike.


9.16.08 - 9:29 pm
Average price per gallon of gasoline in my area has settled back down to about $4.19/gallon. Most gas stations still have fuel but some, especially those not associated with a specific oil company like Exxon or Shell, are out of fuel. See images below.


9.15.08 - 10:53am
Last Friday I noticed a $0.30 increase in the price of gasoline between 8am and 1pm. Also gas lines formed at a nearby filling station. I had not received any news- radio, newspaper, or Internet - all morning so it came as a surprise to me to see such a sight. Reports from friends are that most gas stations have fuel but a few do not. The average price I've seen is $4.29 per gallon. I'll post a GasBuddy chart.

A must read. Implications of a Ten Day Refinery Outage

Thursday, September 04, 2008

more offshore oil drilling is a stupid idea

I won't go so far as to say I'm against lifting the ban on drilling for oil off the east coast of the United States of America. I say that because the only reason the idea is being bandied about is that the last two Republican presidents were oil tycoons and that party is desperate to reframe the rise in the price of gasoline as the fault of the Democrats. Perhaps Democrats should agree to lift the ban and when the price of gas doesn't go down, Republicans will be left without that political punch to throw.

Having said that, I am not in favor of lifting the offshore drilling ban because drilling for oil off the east coast of the U.S. is stupid. Here's why.

The USGS says there are 17.8 billion barrels of undiscovered recoverable resources(read Not Proven Reserves) in waters currently off limits to exploration. The EIA says production couldn't really get started until 2017 and wouldn't be fully ramped up for another 15 years until about 2030. Remember the U.S. uses more than 7 billion barrels a year. Great, there might be two and a half more years worth of oil. Even if we could start pumping at full capacity today when my daughter is 2 ½, she'll be 5 when all that oil is used up.

Even when production is pumping at full capacity, additional offshore drilling facilities would amount to about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd). The US currently uses 21 million bpd. This does not take into account the increase in oil consumption necessary to continue to grow our economy. The bottom line is that additional offshore drilling will provide 1.2% of the oil we use every day if we don't increase consumption and we're willing to wait 20 years.

Oh and if the oil companies don't sell that oil to other countries. Remember, we currently export about 1.5 million barrels of oil from the US every day. There is no guarantee that big oil will even keep this measly 200,000 bpd in the US.

And don't forget the hurricanes.

Notice I didn't even mention the possible environmental catastrophes or the hit tourism might take if lounging at the beach starts to include a beautiful view of the flare from a drilling rig. Well, I didn't mention them until now.

Offshore oil is politicians playing the blame game and that's all it is. The sad part is that a majority of Americans are falling for it while their leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, continue to refuse to act appropriately.

If you want a quick test of whether or not a politican understands energy issues ask her if she'd like to see the cost of gasoline go down. If she says yes, she doesn't know what the hell she's talking about.

Monday, September 01, 2008

an interview with Bob Waldrop

This spring I had the pleasure of talking with Bob Waldrop as part of a series of interviews done for the forthcoming book A Nation of Farmers. Bob Waldrop is a native, 4th generation Oklahoman, who was born and raised in Tillman County in southwest Oklahoma. His great-grandparents came to Oklahoma Territory before statehood. He is the founder of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House (which delivers food to people in need who don’t have transportation), the president of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and works as director of music at Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Church. He served on the founding board of directors of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, and previously served on the Migrants and Refugees Advisory Committee of Catholic Charities. He is the editor of Better Times: An Almanac of Useful Information, which is distributed free. The 5th edition may be viewed at He is a member of the Oklahoma Food Policy Council. Although not presently active in the program, he has served as an Oklahoma County Master Gardener.

Aaron Newton: Bob, could you describe the Oscar Romera Catholic Worker House, and the operations that you're a part of there in Oklahoma City?

Bob Waldrop: The Catholic Worker movement was founded in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in New York, and we're kind of where the anarchists hang out in Catholic church. Every time I say this, people laugh and say that's an oxymoron -- you can't be an anarchist and be a Catholic at the same time. Well, we've managed for 75 years, and each Catholic Worker community is autonomous, we don't have a central hierarchy, and we believe in living in solidarity with the poor, in voluntary poverty, and in doing what the Catholics call the works of mercy, justice, and peace. we concentrate on food security -- and so we not only hand out food or give homeless people housing or whatever like that, we also ask questions about why these people are hungry, why are they homeless, why there are these inequities of wealth and access to resources, and then we work to build a better society where those inequities no longer exist. Dorothy Day said that part of our job was to make a world where it is easier for people to be good. And so that governs a lot of things that we do.

AN: What do the operations actually look like?

BW: We do about, oh, 3600-4000 deliveries every year to over 8 or 9 thousand people who live in those houses. And we get food for that from the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and also people donate food. Members of the food co-op donate money that I use to buy food from the farmers to give to the poor.

AN: Is it correct to characterize your work with local food as social justice work?

BW: Well, that's true. During a lot of my life I've just been really poor, and so there was a time in my life where the only reason that I had bread was that I had wheat and I had a grinder and I was able to grind my own flour to make bread. And the only reason that I had tomatoes is because I had tomato plants in my yard. And the only way that I had a meal at all was that I was willing to cook meals from basic ingredients. So I actually come at this not from a position of affluence, but from a place of experience with scarcity and having to figure out how to feed eight people with a quarter pound of sausage and a cup of milk.

AN: As the cost of food is rising in this country we're hearing that people making poor nutritional choices. The idea being that if they can't afford to buy better food, fresh food, or organic food and that they're forced to buy processed foods- that they're basically eating ramen noodles every evening for dinner. Are you saying that they can have nutritionally adequate diets?

BW: Well, you can take ramen noodles and you can make something better, more healthy out of them also. I've eaten a lot of ramen noodles in my day and ramen noodles are actually kind of an interesting substrate for many different kinds of stirfries. People aren't changing their food choices so that they're buying, say, pork neckbones and whole wheat flour- or even white flour for that matter- they're just buying the cheaper processed foods, the corn dogs and the cheap pizzas and hot dogs and mystery meats like that.

There's been an almost complete loss of cultural information from generation to generation in a lot of poverty communities. A lot of strategies of their parents and grandparents, the younger generation simply isn't aware of. Just one example is lamb's quarters. It grows pretty prolifically in every poor neighborhood on the street and very few people pick them and eat them. And they're very tasty -- I call them Oklahoma spinach. They're very tasty and a good source of vitamin C and other things that you get in green vegetables, but people just don't recognize that as food, they think of it as a weed, and so they don't take advantage of the fact that they can get it for free, basically, just by picking it.

AN: How does the lack of transportation affect people's access to food?

BW: Well, that's a very significant thing. Someone asked me one time why all these little convenience stores all over the place, besides the typical convenience store things that you think of like cigarettes and beer and candy and soda pop also sold the basic selection of basic groceries, canned foods, things like that. I said, the reason for that is that some people don't have transportation and they just can't get to a supermarket and that's where they do their grocery shopping. And they were just horrified by that thought because it's very expensive and the selection isn't very much. And part of the reason is that Oklahoma City has very poor public transportation, so people without cars aren't able to access larger stores. One thing that I have noticed happening however in the lower income neighborhoods that are mostly African-American is that there is a whole group of vegetable tenders that buy from rural farmers and then bring produce to street corners in low-income neighborhoods.

AN: And that's happening now?

BW: That's happening now. And that's really kind of just under the radar. I only found out about it because we're over there delivering food a lot and one summer I noticed the same guy in different places with a six-by-twelve flatbed trailer, and he would one day have watermelons, and one day have cantaloupes, and one day have pumpkins, and one day he had it all loaded down with corn, and since I was looking for people who grow food to sell, and I talked to him and said "Where do you get this?" And he said, "Well, I know a few farmers here and there around town, around the outskirts..." And it was around a sixty-mile radius.

And the other interesting thing about it is that what he's doing is illegal in Oklahoma City because he doesn't have a license. And a license is kind of expensive, I think 50 dollars a month or something like that, which is a lot for a small marginal business like that.

In many areas it is illegal to grow vegetables in the city for sale at all. And I know people who were supplementing their retirement income by growing tomatoes in their backyard and selling them out of their front yard, and they were closed down. Because it is ok to have a vegetable garden, but it's not ok to grow it and then sell.

Another thing that they need to do is that right now it's basically illegal to prepare any food that you're going to sell to the public in your home kitchen, even if your home kitchen meets government commercial kitchen standards. And that's something that should be changed. Maybe not for everything, but for many things: jams and jellies, pickles and things like that that are loaded with vinegar, sauerkraut, things like that.

AN: Are you aware of any community kitchen efforts that try to address the problem of not having an approved kitchen in which to create some of these down-home recipes and sell them?

BW: Well, there's some of that going on- starting to pop up down there. And that's one thing that governments could do to help, -- call it an incubator kitchen or something like that -- and they could build those kind of facilities with community block grant money, and make it available to food entrepreneurs. They give giant corporations millions of dollars t0 come here and open up a place that would hire 300 people. For $100,000 they could build a nice commercial kitchen incubator facility.

AN: How much of what you're doing do you think is replicable throughout the United States and how much contact do you have with other people working on similar projects?

BW: I think it's totally replicable. We've helped start- we call ourselves the Oklahoma Plan Cooperative- and there's Oklahoma Plan Cooperatives operating now in Nebraska, Idaho, Michigan, Texas, Kansas, and I just got back yesterday from Ontario. I gave a presentation at a state community college in Ohio, close to Toledo, to a group of about 100 people who are thinking of doing this. And we're having a group coming from Ontario this week to our delivery day, They want to start the Niagara Food Cooperative up there in Canada. So these are all kind of just the beginning. We help them, all of them send at least one person to one of our delivery days to see how we do things, we give them our software that we developed for our co-op free of charge. There's organizing campaigns going on in Colorado, in Iowa, and then two different ones going on in Ontario.

AN: I understand you cook outdoors in the summer.

BW: Yes, In the summer we cook all meals outside. The moment it starts getting hot in late May, early June I set up an outdoor kitchen on my front porch where it's shady. I see these adds and look in stores where they're talking about this 25,000 dollar outdoor kitchen and mine is a propane grill and an electric frying pan, we have a two-burner propane camp stove, and I have a little roller table. I do all my food prep inside, load up the roller table, roll it out on the front porch and cook everything. All that heat and humidity in the summer ends up outside instead of in the house. I got that idea from my grandmother. I asked her -- I said, "What did you guys do before you had air conditioning in the summers?" She said that they cooked outside and they nearly always slept outside also. We haven't slept outside yet but I keep thinking about putting screen around my front porch and do some of that sleeping outside someday.

AN: What sort of plants do you have growing at your house?

BW: Well, we grow over 100 different types of plants in our former lawn and two thirds of those are perennials. We have peach trees and apple trees and elderberries. Boysenberries, blackberries, dewberries, raspberries, blueberries, mulberries. We have plums, we have apricots, we have a persimmon tree that hasn't grown anything yet. We have bush cherries, we have clove currants and sand cherries, we have a Siberian pea shrub, we have Nanking cherries, we have chokecherries, and we usually have several varieties of each of these. We have roses, which we grow for the rose hips, and also the rose petals are edible. We have comfrey which is medicinal and we have prickly pear cactus which is edible. For annuals, we tend to concentrate on things that we can't get easily from other local sources or organic sources, or where we want a lot of something, more than we want to spend money on. So we grow a lot of paste tomatoes because I like to make my own tomato sauce. we grow a lot of alliums, we grow multiplying onions and shallots and various kinds of chives and garlic and we grow cooking greens like chard and collards. Actually, this year we aren't growing any collard greens, we're growing mostly chard. And then I grow a few a few carrots and potatoes, but we don't have enough room to grow a lot of those. This year I'm going to experiment with some container growing. I've tried growing potatoes in a bucket. we grow hot peppers. We grow a lot of haberneros, sachwanas, cayennes, and jalepenos.

AN: From a big picture perspective, Bob, what concerns you most going forward about the future of food or in a more general sense the future of human existence going into the 21st century? Is there a particular problem that most concerns you?

BW: Well, I just think we're coming to a perfect storm with the whole peak oil, the climate change, and general ecological devastation. And I think we're more dependent than we've ever been on highly centralized systems of distribution, just-in-time inventory systems. That's all just a lot weaker than most people think, and it puts us truly at risk. I think we also have lost a lot of cultural information. My grandfather used to be known throughout his county for the ability to cure hams and make sausage. But those recipes -- he didn't teach his father how to do that, and my father didn't teach me, and so those are all lost. And my dad remembers that it was very good, he said it was the best tasting sausage that he'd ever had. But the recipe was never written down it was just in his head, and so it was just lost.