Gas Lines, Gouging, and Hurricane Sandy: Keeping Prices Low Means Nobody Gets Fuel

Brooklyn, NY - It was mayhem yesterday afternoon at the Hess Gas Station at 4th Avenue and Union Street, where drivers waited in line for more than six hours to fill up their tanks. A separate line of customers on foot wrapped around the block inching red gas canisters up the sidewalk. The police were on the scene bringing justice to the line cutters.

Brandon Shamell, who transports handicapped customers for Countrywide, Inc., was standing off to the side observing the scene. "We're not going to be able to pick people up on Monday," says Shamell. "Gas is more important than food right now."

Lillian Rodriguez, who owns Family Car Service, spent the day in line in a battle to keep her drivers on the road. "I've been here since 6:43 [in the morning], making the line over and over again. And I will do that for as long as I can."

So why does it look 1973 all over again at gas stations throughout New York and New Jersey? Hurricane Sandy knocked power out to New Jersey's gas refineries, causing shortages throughout the region. Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo responded by doing exactly the wrong thing: They threatened to prosecute any station owners caught raising prices, thus removing any incentive to truck more gas in from other parts of the country.

Thanks to a cadre of small businessmen, though, Brooklyn residents have an alternative to spending all day in line. One man, who asked to remain anonymous, said that he was waiting in line over and over again and then selling gas across the street from the station at a 200 percent mark-up. "A lot of people honestly don't want to wait three hours, you know? It's happening at every gas station." He estimated that about half the people in line were in the resale business.

Recently at Reason.com, Anthony Randazzo made the case for price gouging to a skeptical cabbie, Katherine Mangu-Ward explained why "surge pricing" in taxis helps provide a crucial service to a "storm-weary populace," and Nick Gillespie outlined "3 Stupid Responses to Hurricane Sandy - and Every Other Disaster You Can Remember." 

About 1.45 minutes.

Produced by Jim Epstein, who also narrates.

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  • Caleb Turberville||

    Subtitles, please. Sorry, I don't speak Brooklynese.

  • ||

    It's not the dialect -- it's the public education.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    It's the shady basketball arena construction deals.

  • ||

    The ones fixed in the favor of white trillionaire moguls?

    WE'RE ALL RODNEY KING NOW.

  • زوجناكم||

    i like this way u know

  • Ken Shultz||

    "So why does it look 1973 all over again at gas stations throughout New York and New Jersey?"

    It's becasue people's minds are thinking they did in 1973 again.

    There are a lot of people out there who dismiss Econ 101 fundamentals like they're just a Republican conspiracy theory.

    People who argue against price controls are treated like Birthers--that's why it looks like 1973 all over again.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    So, Bama loses to Notre Dame in the #1 vs #2 bowl match-up?

  • Ken Shultz||

    After a natural disaster, I'd rather be in Tuscaloosa or South Bend if people in NYC are so stupid that they'd rather go without gasoline for longer.

  • ||

    Hear about those Alabaman rescuers that went back home because Jersey unions wouldn't let them?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Are you serious?

    That sounds too perfect to be true!

  • ||

  • Ken Shultz||

    Here's a response to the Fox News report:

    http://blog.al.com/breaking/20.....er_default

    I hope they get to the bottom of that because if it's true, people should be seriously ticked.

  • ||

    They got whiffs of the potential shitstorm coming their way for their thuggish bullshit and backed down. That's my bet.

  • Ken Shultz||

    From you link:

    Decatur said in a separate statement following Hardin's comments that its crews were held in place in Virginia pending clarification of documents received from the IBEW that "implied a requirement of our employees to agree to union affiliation while working in the" New York and N.J. areas."

    http://www.foxbusiness.com/gov.....z2BAujyaC4

    Hardin didn't just make that up. It was apparently confirmed in a Decatur company statement. That's basically two independent sources.

  • Paul.||

    Obama will accept no red tape.

  • Suki||

    Union rules are a different color tape.

  • LarryA||

    Their tape is blue, of course.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    All the AL power companies involved are now saying their help just wasn't needed, but I don't believe that for a second. They probably realized the IBEW union could cause plenty of trouble for them back home if they chose and changed their stories.

  • Blueman||

    It's tragic, but I still lol'd. You always hear how we need a gigantic federal government because people in Alabama and Mississippi are too stupid or unable to help themselves. It really is too perfect.

  • wareagle||

    and if that game comes about, they play in the old Tulane Stadium. For the sake of nostalgia.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Sorry, no can do. They destroyed that thing to make way for the Superdome. The better to shield the Same Ole Saints from public shame.

  • wareagle||

    too bad. I remember that game.

  • ||

    Yeah, but price controls ensure the bourgeois don't smother the proletariat with the poison of rampant capitalism.

    Praise be Grandfather Lenin, liberator and savior!

  • Ken Shultz||

    I wonder, would they be smarter if it weren't an election season?

    Stupid people being led by stupid leaders.

  • ||

    Probably not. There are grades of Retard that once achieved, cannot be backtracked from.

    God save us.

  • BarryD||

    They elected those leaders.

  • BMFPitt||

    I saw this on a Facebook post this morning and I thought it was a joke or a chain mail. Wow, that's some weapons grade stupid.

    And now Christie has lost my support.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Other than one guy who's retiring this year, you're not going to find a politician in the US who speaks out in favor of allowing price gouging. Doesn't matter how compelling the economic argument is (and it is very compelling), it's an emotional issue.

  • John Thacker||

    You can, however, hope for slightly better benign neglect on the issue.

  • Suki||

    Then speak out in favor of free markets. "Price gouging" is just mean commie wordplay.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Leftists would argue that the market in the aftermath of a disaster is not truly free.

  • Suki||

    Of course, because to them government never makes a disaster worse.

  • Sevo||

    Tulpa (LAOL-PA)| 11.3.12 @ 1:01PM |#
    "Leftists would argue that the market in the aftermath of a disaster is not truly free."
    If so, they are ignoramuses to be ignored.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Leftists will always argue that ANY market isn't free. They deeply believe in oppression and unfair power structures, because such belief excuses their desire to create a power structure with them at the top (that will, naturally, be fair).

    Leftists are wonderful arguments for reviving the guillotine.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Leftists would argue that the market in the aftermath of a disaster is not truly free.

    The disaster being 40 years of government intervention?

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Leftists would argue that the market in the aftermath of a disaster is not truly free.

    Heck, I've seen it argued that a choice of too many products means the market isn't free!

  • wareagle||

    I see where some law was passed prohibiting insurers from charging policy holders the deductible on their policies. What could go wrong with that?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, I saw that, too.

    Apparently, you get charged a different deductible if it's a hurricane than you do if it's just a storm.

    What I believe those governors did was rule that it wasn't a hurricane--so that people wouldn't have to pay the higher deductibles.

    I think the line between hurricane and storm is 75 mph winds. And, according to this map...

    http://www.nj.com/news/index.s.....how_s.html

    ...the wind speed was more than 75 mph.

    It just was.

    It's amazing how governors can do things like declare wind speed. Is there anything they can't do?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    I remember reading a history of the Roman Empire (not Gibbons, someone else) discussing Diocletian's "Edict on Maximum Prices" in the year AD 301, in response to the massive inflation that plagued the Empire during his reign. They commented that "he may as well have commanded the winds not to blow."

    I guess the governors are one-upping the Emperor.

  • John Thacker||

    I believe that they're arguing about exactly what the land speed was when it made landfall, or when the eye of the storm crossed land, or other claims.

  • Suki||

    It's amazing how governors can do things like declare wind speed. Is there anything they can't do?

    If they can declare AGW, they can declare anything.

  • IrateBeagle||

    Skip to 1:30, forget to hit the blur button?

  • Paul.||

    This is why medical care should be free.

  • Ken Shultz||

    +1

  • ||

    Paul, could you do me a favour and at least type "free" in quotes? My BP thanks you in advance.

    Hugs & Kisses,

    GM

  • Big 'Orra||

    I kinda like the idea of my own slave doctor chained up in my basement, especially if she's pretty and doesn't mind the frequent ... um ... "house calls."

  • ||

    Sex therapy is preventive health care.

  • Repairman Jack||

    Read these comments and weep.

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/49622942

    'If there weren't price gouging laws, someone would just buy all of the gas and price gouge everyone all the time. Like 1870!!!!!!!!!'

    *facepalm*

  • Ken Shultz||

    With all those exclamation marks, maybe that person was being sarcastic?

  • Paul.||

    I interpret it that way.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It's hard to express sarcasm in text.

    I usually go for words that don't exist like "unpossible".

  • Repairman Jack||

    Not sure how common this kind of apostophe usage is:
    'xxxx' = paraphrase
    "xxxx" = direct quotation

    The person I was paraphrasing seems to be serious.

  • Ted S.||

    I'd support auctioning off the gas. That would make people's heads explode.

  • Ken Shultz||

    This would be a great time for Obama to bring up global warming.

    As prices spike in the secondary/black market for gasoline and people are dealing with shortages...

    This would be the perfect time for Obama to start talking about global warming.

    From Obama's global warming perspective, things have never been better in New York City.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    What I don't get is how a major public official, Mayor Bloomberg, can make a pronouncement that he thinks Sandy was caused by global warming, and not be immediately mocked and derided from all corners.

    I mean, I'm about the farthest thing from a Birther imaginable, but there's a higher probability that BO was born in Kenya than that Sandy was caused by AGW. Hell, there's a higher probability Obama was born in Antarctica!

  • wareagle||

    who's going to mock Bloomberg? The entirety of the media, with a few exceptions, sings from the same hymnal. And he is in the heart of blue country, where AGW is treated as a settled matter.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Thing is, even if one totally believes in AGW, there is absolutely no evidence that a 4C change in mean global temperature would have any measurable effect on hurricane frequency or intensity. Yes, the water temperature affects hurricanes, but that's a tiny temperature change and is spread out over the entire world over an entire year. The main dangers of AGW would be things that happen over periods of years, like ice caps melting and coral reefs dying, where an uptick in the mean global temperature can actually have a serious effect.

  • John Thacker||

    Well, a slight change in probabilities of a rare event can change something from a once in 100 years to a once in 50 years event, say.

    But even so, I'm fairly certain that deaths from cold exceed that of deaths from heat.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Well, if you were transported 100 years in the future, spent a week there, and came back to the present, you would never be able to notice that there had been a 4C increase in global mean temperature. There would still be cold days, cool summers, cold winters, etc; you'd need a ton of data in the future to directly measure the temperature increase.

    The serious AGW people aren't worried about increased heat-related deaths, but about long-term processes like sea level rise and damage to fragile ecosystems.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Well, a slight change in probabilities of a rare event can change something from a once in 100 years to a once in 50 years event, say.

    And that change could just as easily change a the probability of a give storm from once in 100 years to once in 200 years.

    One of the things that convinced me that AGW theory was bullshit is that all of the changes forcasted were going to catastrophic with no beneficial effects anywhere for anyone.

    Nature just doesn't work that way.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    I believe that they're arguing about exactly what the land speed was

    African, or European?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Christie is more of a King of Swamp Castle than Sir Lancelot.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    When I first came here, this was all beach. Everyone said I was daft to build a house on a beach, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the sand. So I built a second one. That sank into the sand. So I built a third. That blew down, fell over, then sank into the sand. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest house in all of Jersey Shore.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Yeah, but price controls ensure the bourgeois don't smother the proletariat with the poison of rampant capitalism.

    Profits are how the howling mob knows whom to lynch.

  • ||

    This.

  • ||

    You can't fool me. Those last two guys were Walkers. I didn't think they could talk.

  • ||

    "This is not a democracy anymore!"

  • ||

    "That sound you hear? That's God laughing while you make plans."

  • ||

    "Admit it, you only came back to Atlanta for the hat."

  • ||

    I am loving that show. Just started watching on Netflix and I'm almost through season 2. Watching it makes me want to check my arsenal, check it again, and add to it.

  • ||

    "When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth."

    Different movie, same genre.

    And yeah, I saw the first episode of the third season, and it's looking good.

  • ||

    It's like the writer's scanned the message boards across the internet, took note of the fan's complaints, and fixed evvery single problem the show had with season 2.

    Rick is too damn nice and naive? Let's turn him into a tyrannical badss. Not enough zombies? Let's create a whole prison full of them. Everyone hates Lori? Okay, we'll make it clear the characters do too.

    They even made formerly useless characters, Carl, Carol, and Maggie useful. And David Morrissey is absolutely brilliant as the Governor. Should be a ground-breaking season.

  • ||

    I really liked Season 2. It seemed like the Sophia story line was dragging on and on, but it paid off big with the barn.

    My understanding is the whole arc of the story with Rick becoming more of a tyrant is built into the comic book, so I don't think that was something they just made up.

    Anyway, a huge part of the theme seems to be focused on what kind of person you have to become to survive in this environment, and what kinds of people you have to kill, and how the line between the assholes that have to be killed and the leaders who have to kill the assholes becomes increasingly blurry. And how hard it is to establish trust or know who are the good guys and the bad guys in that situation.

  • Suki||

    Thanks to a cadre of small businessmen, though, Brooklyn residents have an alternative to spending all day in line. One man, who asked to remain anonymous, said that he was waiting in line over and over again and then selling gas across the street from the station at a 200 percent mark-up. "A lot of people honestly don't want to wait three hours, you know? It's happening at every gas station." He estimated that about half the people in line were in the resale business.

    Look! Government can create jobs in the free market!

  • Sevo||

    "He estimated that about half the people in line were in the resale business."
    There remains some slight hope for humanity.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    If half the people who'd been in line were across the street selling gas, there is NO WAY the cops at the gas station would not notice this and go taser crazy and stuff.

  • Sevo||

    Hey, he's working his hyperbole chops! Wants to be a politician.
    Seriously, regardless of the number, I'd bet they aren't 'across the street'. Somebody walks the line quietly mentioning an address not far off...

  • ||

    Or they drive a few blocks to another gas station just to be safe. Sell what they've got and bug out.

  • hotsy totsy||

    They could always say the GAS is the same price as "across the street", but they've added a "no wait" charge, or "handling" fee to cover their time waiting in line for it.

    For example, 5 gallons at $4.00 is $20.00, but they add another $25 for having waited in line so the "express" gasoline is $45.00 for 5 gallons.

  • Sevo||

    hotsy totsy| 11.3.12 @ 11:05PM |#
    "They could always say the GAS is the same price as "across the street", but they've added a "no wait" charge,"

    Which is exactly what they did. Supermarkets don't sell food, they sell 'no wait' convenience.
    I can find a fish monger, a butcher, etc, so long as I don't care about my time.

  • dan'o||

    And much like other government "created" jobs, the real problem (gas supply) remains unfixed. The net result is gouging without the increase of outside supply due to raised cost- yep, sounds like govt solution!

  • ||

    Hey, at least there are a few people out there with a modicum of entrepreneurial spirit and enough economic understanding to see an opportunity.

  • HSchickel||

    To the govs of NY and NJ...
    You can solve this problem (SHORTAGE OF FUEL IN STRICKEN AREAS) in hours by doing the following:

    1. Suspend laws prohibiting out of district gas in the area.
    2. Suspend laws against price gouging.
    3. Suspend laws against selling gas direct from trucks.
    4. Suspend laws requiring meter inspections on fuel sales.
    5. Suspend laws requiring meter fume control.
    6. Invite truckers with hand pumps into the stricken areas to sell fuel direct from their trucks AT WHATEVER PRICE THEY CAN GET.

    Your states would see an immediate influx of willing suppliers ready and able to meet the demands of your willing buyers.

    Yes there would of course be some things perceived as downsides such as higher prices and a loss of sales tax and excise tax revenue (the latter problem could be worked out rather quickly though). More importantly, the fuel shortages would be solved in mere hours. Please have some backbone and do the right thing for your customers (constituents) even though this would not be a politically easy thing to do.

  • Pagan Priestess||

    ^THIS^

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Tough.
    They are now giving away free gasoline.

  • Sevo||

    "They are now giving away free gasoline."
    Not sure who "they" are, but this is guaranteed to keep excess gas in the underground and refinery tanks nation-wide.
    Q: What's the best way to make sure a commodity stays away from where it is needed?
    A: Make sure the price for that commodity where it is needed is below what people would pay.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

  • Sevo||

    From the link:
    "...even as officials promised free gas only to then add this caveat: first responders first, then the public can line up..."
    Uh, I'm sure there are better ways to encourage riots, but I'm gonna have to think...

  • Sevo||

    BTW, wife points out that Christie hasn't 'fixed prices', just 'rationed' gas.
    I'm open to correction, but it seems there is no difference: By fixing the amount of "X" I can buy, regardless of what price I'd offer, it seems the price is thereby fixed.

  • tagtann||

    Man I cant even begin to imagine what those folks are thinking.

    www.u-privacy.tk

  • Rhywun||

    Those clowns in Congress have done it again!

  • Disgusted Dem||

    This price control situation reminds me of the questionable claims by the International Energy Agency when oil rose to $150 a barrel. At the time, the IEA said that the Chinese government price controls would keep oil demand high. It later emerged that there were gas and power shortages in China because the refiners and power producers could not afford to keep selling at a loss. In reality, the price controls caused a drop in China's oil usage. Either the people at the IEA don't understand economics 101 or they were colluding with someone to keep the oil prices high through disinformation.

  • nike001||

    It's like listening to a story heard half of the back, but I do not want to know that people are not able to carry below. In http://www.cheapfootballcleatsmall.com/ addition, Mr. Wu was the second conversion is also very intriguing.

  • Make money online||

    Hahahaha, you guys are very wise, this is what i was discussing with my friends too, if the price gets low, all filling stations hoards their fuels.

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