Behold the contradictions inherent in the system!

I guess there has been a wave of panic-buying of gasoline after a major pipeline was shut down; I haven’t noticed because I’ve been walking everywhere. People were concerned that they wouldn’t have fuel for their daily commute, so they were stockpiling gas in anything that would hold gas, including plastic bags. There are supposed to be safety laws that limit what you can use to store a flammable liquid, but apparently gas station owners were looking the other way. Sometimes, that led to disaster.

A Hummer in Florida burst into flames right after a driver filled four containers with gas.

Citrus County Fire Rescue said they responded to a call at a Texaco Food Mart in Homosassa, Fla. for a vehicle on fire on Wednesday.

Four 5-gallon containers filled with gasoline were in the back of the vehicle when it caught fire, officials said.

Hummers are practically a symbol of self-indulgent excess, so I would have applauded the sight. But what’s really ironic here is that a guy who was concerned about running out of gas is driving around in a Hummer, a vehicle that optimistically gets 10-14mpg. If we really want to save fuel, one way would be to torch every Hummer on the road. Go buy an electric or hybrid or at least a small economy car that gets 30-40 mpg.


  1. hemidactylus says

    Though he’s far more conscientious than your typical Republican, I think we can thank the Austrian Oak for the Hummers.

    Weird connection to manly manness:

    Talk about walking contradictions:

    Well his Hummer is electric but still needs energy generated at a plant with a carbon footprint no?

  2. avalus says

    Also gas fumes are quite toxic.
    The thought of people storing gas in plastic bags in their cars gives me the creeps.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    “Jerrycans” with gasoline became very popular during and after WWII as they were practical. I think they are no longer permitted in cars in Sweden, because a poorly sealed can is a fire hazard….as we can clearly see.

    If they could solve the pollution problem with diesel, it would make a safer fuel (we can make biodiesel as a slot-in replacement to fossil fuel, but the cost needs to fall an order of magnitude first. Petrol and diesel are basically side products of more profitable petroleum products made in refineries. This requires ‘biorefineries’ able to make a lot of value-added biomaterial products to compete on even terms).

    (butanol would make a better slot-in replacement for petrol than ethanol, but I am not aware of how it compare as a fire hazaed)

  4. birgerjohansson says

    The humvee is getting obsolete as a military transport vehicle, so maybe the new generations will not see it as a symbolic penis enlarger?
    I am thinking the new status symbol will be a hybrid smart car, almost like in Knight Rider. With solar panels on top, to recharge when James Bond is parking it in the sun. The ejection seat will use environmentally friendly inert gases.

  5. cates says

    From a cartoon (in the New Yorker I think)
    “Quick, we have to go wait in line for several hours to buy as much gasoline as we can before the price goes back down.”

  6. garnetstar says

    avalus @4, my sentiments exactly.

    In my lab we handle all kinds of dangerous chemicals: ones so toxic that one drop on your skin can kill, ones that can explode, ones that burst into flame/explode instantly upon exposure to air (including gases that do that.) We have all kinds of safe protocols for handling them, and I’m not afraid to work with them, we do every day.

    There are only two chemicals that I’m afraid to work with in my lab, even with all the stringent handling procedures. One is 100% oxygen and the other is gasoline.

    So, the idea of having gasoline stashed somewhere, in a random can or, for goodness sake, a plastic bag (! even ordinary liquids seep through plastic bags, and wouldn’t gasoline start to dissolve them?) gives me nightmares.

  7. says


    One thing about making biodiesel is; what are we to do with the glycerol rest product?
    This glycerol is usually contaminated with whatever non-lipids that are in the feedstock. Especially in the case of processing used cooking oil or tallow.
    Glycerol can in principle be used to make epichlorohydrin, one of the feedstocks for making epoxy resins. But I suspect the glycerin has to be filtered/purified first in that case.

    From looking at some safety data sheets (tip: use European SDS; they’re generally much more informative than US ones), butanol has a significantly lower vapour pressure (0.1 kPa) than petrol (4-240 kPa), but the lower explosion limit is similar (1.4% by volume).
    So it’s probably less of a fire hazard. Petrol is considered carcinogenic, mutagenic and possibly preprotoxic because of its benzene content while butanol is not. On the other hand, butanol can cause serious eye damage. So I would tend to call butanol less toxic (insofar as such a generalization has any meaning).

  8. stwriley says

    And just to add some extra irony to the stupidity, this all took place on the central Gulf coast of Florida, a place that doesn’t get it’s gas supply from the Colonial pipeline. There was literally no need to hoard gas there, except that morons like our Hummer driver were already hoarding gas because they’re too stupid to realize that the local supply won’t be affected unless they all run out and fill up ever container they can, thus causing the very shortages they hope to escape. So this idiot burned up their very expensive gas-guzzler for no real reason at all.

  9. says


    There are only two chemicals that I’m afraid to work with in my lab

    What about the stuff on Derek Lowe’s things I won’t work with list? Like e.g. ClF3 as shown in this interesting video.

    W.r.t. plastic cans, HDPE cans are often used for storing e.g. solvents, peroxide solutions and epoxy- and polyester resins without problems.

  10. blf says

    @10, I also wondered about that. I looked for a map of a pipeline (Map of dry gas stations impacted by cyberattack), and there is a spur from the main pipe (which runs approximately Huston→New Jersey) towards Florida, but didn’t investigate any further. There are shortages in Florida (and in the general area of the eejit in the OP), albeit — as you say — quite possibly from hoarding rather than the incompetently-secured pipe’s shutdown.

  11. PaulBC says

    SM@1 It’s like a Hummer that bursts into flames… “and isn’t it ironic don’t you think?”

    Doing my best here to channel Alanis, I conclude: Yes. It is “Alanis Morissette ironic” which basically mean anything sucky or disappointing that you can state in a quip.

  12. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    most news reports about the panic buying, show people in line at a gas station talking about how they have been driving many miles, all day, town to town, station to station, to get turned away as the station runs out. “So frustrating” they say, not realizing the irony of using up all their fuel to buy scraps at inflated prices because of the lack of supply and overwhelming demand <–NB supply and demand

  13. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    hilarious satire photo shows someone pumping gas into a laundry basket, with the caption [that won’t work]

    actually there are gas stations with signs telling customers not to use plastic bags for gas.
    I guess panic makes comprehension go out the window

  14. stwriley says

    There is a spur that goes to southern Georgia, but that doesn’t distribute as far south as Homosassa, which is a northern exurb of Tampa. Most of Florida (including this area) gets its gas by ship, not pipeline.

  15. waydude says

    Well, this happened in our traditionally stupidest part of the country, and they did not disappoint. Never mind the fact that if everyone went about their business normally there would not have been a shortage. It’s almost as if we didn’t learna thing from the whole toilet paper fiasco of 2020. I think that was the lead story last year…

    Good gods tho, I want to be there (at a safe distance) to watch one of these people try to fill their tank with gas from a plastic bag.

    And then there’s the people that don’t understand gas has a shelf life and whoever it was pumpin it into giant containers in their truck (which by the way, if it’s not rated to hold gas some of those looked like water containers, the gas will degrade the plastic and start leaking so that will be fun…) will be left with a bunch of useless fuel in the next few months

    c’mon karma, please be real just this once

  16. blf says

    @17, “…will be left with a bunch of useless fuel in the next few months”.

    Whilst I certainly don’t encourage the use of petrol as a fuel, I would rather hope the eejits consume their hoarded supply rather than “storing” it — which all this nonsense suggests will be done in the stooopidest, most unsafe manner possible, like in open buckets next to the gas-powered water heater, inside the fireplace or (more likely in Florida?) barbecue, or near a welding rig.

  17. robro says

    How do you get gasoline into a plastic bag in the first place? Perhaps some places don’t require this, but in California gas pumps are designed to only work with approved gas storage containers because you have to push the nozzle into the container’s cap to engage the vapor recovery system. There are probably ways around that, but pumping gasoline into a plastic bag and then sealing it has got to be a technical challenge even under less complicated circumstances.

  18. says

    When I first saw this comic, I thought that surely that must be a joke? Nobody would be that stupid, right?

    Lots of wooden houses/garages in the US. Now with a lot of people storing gasoline in unsuitable containers. Probably next to the stack of bog rolls they hamstered last year.

    So what can we expect? To begin with (and the best case scenario) a lot of cars that won’t start in a couple of months because deteriorating gas has clogged the fuel systems.
    Second, a lot of gasoline spills. But I doubt that’ll make the news.
    Unless there will be an epidemic (excusez le mot) of house fires, maybe around the 4th of July?

  19. PaulBC says

    I haven’t even bothered to check gas prices. Is the West Coast affected? I fill my Prius less than once a month now that I don’t have to commute to work. I have at least 3/4 of a tank now so I won’t need to for a while. Maybe I’ll take a bike ride past the Shell station to see.

  20. garnetstar says

    rsmith @11, no, those are OK. What the chemist means is that he won’t work with him under the conditions and procedures available to him, with his lab and his equipment.

    Explosives and rapid oxidizers and the like can be controlled, and of course you must use the right materials, not things like Plexiglass that you know they’ll react violently with. (You handle ClF3 as if it was fluorine, in metal apparatus that forms an inert metal fluoride surface layer. Like, nickel.) As to hideous toxins with poisonous vapors, well, if you can handle something so that it never comes into contact with air, it never comes into contact with you either.

    The thing about oxygen and gasoline is that, with both, even when taking all precautions and using all the right procedures, one tiny little thing that you may not even be able to notice can be there, and they can instantly go off. And, with those two, there is almost no return. Once they go up, you’re pretty much dead, no possibility of escape or effective mitigation or anything.

    So, it’s the near-impossibility of completely controlling them (that’s what you have to do with those dangerous ones, completely control everything), coupled with the impossibility of surviving when they go wrong, that is scary. Not that I wouldn’t handle them if needed, but I’d be mighty scared.

  21. garnetstar says

    PaulBC @21, Meghan McCain (not the world’s most reliable source, very prone to exaggerate) claimed that there were long, long gas lines at her “home”, by which, as far as I can tell, must mean either the NYC area or Arizona.

    If it’s Arizona, it must be the people running the vote “audit”, going out to hoad gasoline in their spare time.

  22. whheydt says

    Re; robro @ #19…
    One can manually hold back the seal ring on the gas nozzle in California and it will work without needing to push into a hard connector. It does defeat the vapor recovery system, though.

    In general…
    G. Harry Stine, in his 1956 book, Rocket Power and Space Flight, noted that any teenager could get a job at a gas station pumping rocket fuel into cars.

    (As a side note, some of his predictions are now…amusing. One was that the US would launch the world’s first artificial satellite during the 1957-58 IGY. Another was that manned space flights would be developed by extending the X-15 program to create an orbital vehicle, and that would then fly back from orbit. Not quite, Mr. Stine.)

  23. whheydt says

    AS for dangerous substances in the lab… The faculty advisor for the dorm I was in at UC Berkeley in the late-1960s was one of the people who discovered–the hard way–that XeO3 is a contact explosive when dry. He was trying to get it wet when it went off. The main Chem building had a safety display with both his face shield (pretty torn up) and goggles (basically undamaged). When I first met him the skin grafts on his lower face were still healing.

  24. unclefrogy says

    to fill a plastic bag with gasoline I would first put the bag into a cardboard box. I would however never do such a dumb thing.
    All the fuel, chemicals and paint I accumulate I keep in old none working refrigerators outside of any buildings. They keep much better most of the stink is better confined at least, The paint stays usable for much longer as well.
    The thing about the pipe line shutdown and resulting shortage that I find interesting it was the corporate systems that were compromised and not the operations side of the business. They could not tell how to bill anyone so they shut everything down. Then the dealers had to sell all their already delivered stock at inflated prices. I would bet that with the tax loose and the shortage induced “temporary” price increase the creative accounts will create a nice windfall even with the ransom payments.
    uncle frogy

  25. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin points out the safest way to store petrol is as dinosaurs. Not one of today’s feathered “bird” variants (similar to herself), but as an actual 65+ myo dinosaur. They aren’t known to pollute the air (albeit there was probably farts) or water (albeit there was urine and feces and corpses) — at least not to the point of changing the climate or Earth’s rotation (How melting glaciers have accelerated a shift in Earth’s axis) — albeit dinosaurs might be an asteroid magnet… Not a very effective magnet, only one notable asteroid in 165m years.

    An additional advantage of storing petrol as dinosaurs is they are their own anti-theft system, either eating, stomping on, or simply scaring away most thieves.

  26. unclefrogy says

    The ejection seat will use environmentally friendly driver generated methane collected by the driver seats self contained solar powered systems
    uncle frogy

  27. PaulBC says


    If it’s Arizona, it must be the people running the vote “audit”, going out to hoad gasoline in their spare time.

    And if some of it just happens to spill on the ballots… well it’s a shame they can’t show you all the bamboo ballots from China that they found but you better believe there was a lot of fraud going on.

  28. wzrd1 says

    I’ll happily store gasoline inside of a plastic bag container – once it’s properly labeled a blivet and inspected by a petrochemical handling specialist. Not until then.
    I would store and decant from an old style “jerry can” or newer purpose built container specified for such usage, as fueling a lawnmower from one’s car fuel supply is an exercise in peril. I’m also paranoid level cautious in handling a recently filled container, as well as decanted from container, to be beyond certain there is no residual fuel on the outside of the now tightly sealed container and the vent is again closed.

    As for the Hummer, the original design was for military usage and after the military production ceased, the original intent was for farm and industrial utility vehicles. Then, celebrities fouled it up into a status symbol, typically compensating for small prunes subsequent to steroid abuse.
    Pity, the diesel hummer would’ve been a godsend for farmers.The hummer was designed originally with a 15 year life expectancy, where a pickup truck or car had a 5 year life expectancy, was a cargo oriented truck and designed for off road utility usage.
    Now, they’re commodity truck chassis from a standard pickup truck, bolted to the hummer body. Idiots pay extra for a regular pickup truck, with a hummer shell around it for many times the cost.
    My experience is exclusively with the military model, with a suspension known to loosen teeth when a sizable bump was hit. I was also part of the conversion from various model pickup and Blazer types, plus our treasured Jeeps to the hummer. Traded in maneuverability a bit for the ability to nearly be able to drive up a telephone pole and down the other side – with a substantially wider vehicle.
    If anyone got stuck off road in any of those, I put them through off road driver training again.
    With special training for usage in Grafenwoehr during the spring. There, it wasn’t uncommon to sink up to one’s personal suspension in mud…

  29. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    Now I’m curious if this is the same ‘petroleum pipeline’ that passes east-west under the unbuilt lot next to my workplace. The wapo map does not give much resolution, but it does seem to travel through the area between athens and commerce.

    Although the workplace move increased my round-trip commute from 5 miles to 8 miles, it is now entirely on 2/3-lane roads instead of the 4~8-lane free-for-all of west-side atlanta highway. The new route would be much less terrifying to attempt to ride a bicycle on – especially with electric assist to get up to the 2hp/35mph moped limit. Paid off the CRV early this year but 24mpg still feels so very wasteful even getting only ~5gal every few weeks, and bowels seem much more stable recently so less risk that I might shit myself on a longer bike ride versus car ride. The oconee river crossing is the only spot that makes me hesitate as it is a fairly deep valley with bridge near the bottom where cars regularly hit 60mph in a 45mph zone.

  30. stwriley says

    That’s because you live in CA, where they actually require gas pumps to have the vapor recovery technology. Many southern states (including my own NC) do not require this. You can just stick the nozzle into a bag a pump away…

  31. Rich Woods says

    @stwriley #16:

    Most of Florida (including this area) gets its gas by ship, not pipeline.

    Shh! If they learn about that the idiots will start queuing up at the docks!

  32. birgerjohansson says

    unclefrogy @ 28
    “driver generated methane collected by the driver seats”
    Aaaargggh! (sticks head far outside car window)

  33. birgerjohansson says

    Having read my share of zombie books I know gasoline may degrade if stored improperly for a long time. So when society collapses, you should steal a diesel car.

  34. PaulBC says

    birgerjohansson@35 Brains may also degrade if left in living skulls too long before consumption.

  35. davidc1 says

    I am pissed off at my 07 Vauxhall Astra 1.9 diesel ,for the past ten days the bastard car alarm has been going off
    ,the guy who does the mot put a second hand alarm in it ,still went off ,put another second hand one in on Friday ,
    it went off earlier this evening ,might have to cough up for a bastard new one.
    If i don’t want to hear the bastard thing going off i have to close all the doors and open the front passenger door ,and lock it
    using the lock on the bastard dashboard ,that locks the bastard doors ,but doesn’t set the bastard alarm .
    Sorry about the wall to wall bastards .