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Gas shortage encourages green habits

By Henry Tyndall

The peculiar timing of September’s gasoline shortage – occurring within a month’s time of mass riots, two hurricanes, and countless alleged sightings of armed clowns – painted North Carolina in an eerily apocalyptic light as the summer of 2016 came to a close. To the everyday suburban commuter, it may have been difficult to look past the gas pump ahead of a long line of vehicles, but looking at the bigger picture, the shortage reeked of a much greater, and an even more apocalyptic problem.

The leak in the Colonial Pipeline was discovered in Shelby County, AL on Sept. 9, according to CNN. The pipeline supplies gasoline for around 50 million people a day, and the severed pipe allowed a leakage of 250 thousand gallons.

The pipeline remained out-of-order until Sept. 21, when it was announced that an emergency bypass was completed. According to Alabama Local News, the bypass provides an alternative route for oil to be carried through in the Colonial Pipeline system. The bypass is only temporary, and will be in use only until the main pipeline is restored to working condition.   

Two notable side-effects of the shortage were that it encouraged carpooling, and sparked jealousy over people with electric or hybrid cars. “I had to drive less, and even began to walk or bike to close destinations,” junior Isabel Drake described of her experience during the crisis.

Senior Jopsy Bayog put it gravely, “The gas shortage was death.” The timing of the crisis was not on Bayog’s side: he recalled to ECHO, “my [low fuel] light came on the day [the pipeline burst] happened, on my way home [from school]. It was actually insane.”

The inherent hypocrisy of these before-mentioned habit changes however, is that in general, people only make an effort to be environmentally friendly when there is a major economic incentive to do so, not when there is merely a major environmental incentive, which is always.

It is important to note that in North Carolina as well as a number of other states, electric cars are not actually more environmentally friendly, strictly speaking. Their environmental benevolence is more effective in states such as California, where a larger percentage of electricity comes from clean, renewable sources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy, as opposed to the coal-heavy industry of North Carolina.

Some students managed to escape the constraints of the crisis due to the fuel grade their car is compatible with. “[The gas shortage] didn’t really affect me that much,” junior Rubén Sharp admitted to ECHO. “I have a flat six engine with a few modifications so I have to buy premium, unleaded, 93-octane and they weren’t out of that.”

For other students, the limited selection of fuel grades proved to be an even greater problem than the lack of fuel itself. “I heard that there was a gas shortage, so I rushed to the gas station to beat the lines,” junior Talia Pomp recalled to ECHO. “When I got there, I ended up accidentally putting diesel into my car instead of gas.”

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