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‘Collective panicking:’ CCU professor provides insight on long lines at the pump

Updated: May. 15, 2021 at 9:00 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Your panic at the pump is more than likely driving the gas shortage, according to experts.

Patrick De Haan, an oil and refined products analyst at GasBuddy.com, says the Colonial Pipeline shutdown really didn’t impact the fuel supply at the distributor level.

He also explained the supply changes are contributed more so to the consumer levels.

But what is the mindset of those flocking to the pump?

Coastal Carolina University philosophy Julinna Oxley says panic buying is a very real thing in our society and has recently been shown in this fuel shortage.

She also said the reasoning for people making that decision boils down to human psychology.

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For example, shortly after the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, national and state leaders asked people not to panic, instead recommending people not rush to the pumps unless they needed gas.

As Oxley explained, many people ended up doing the opposite.

“As soon as you tell them supply is running out, and not to panic, people panic anyway,” she said. “It’s like me saying to you, ‘Don’t think of an elephant.’ Well, what did you just do? You thought of an elephant.”

“It’s herd mentality,” she continued. “It’s like a collective panicking. It’s like a domino effect. One person after another lined up, whereas if no one had ever done that, there may never have been a shortage.”

Oxley says humans are prone to make mistakes, but they can also choose to not panic buy items to prevent some of their neighborhood’s from being without essential goods.

However, if people choose to irrationally panic buy in the future, she says the gas shortage situation could repeat itself.

”Yes it could 100% happen again,” Oxley said.

Douglas Morrison lives within a few miles of a gas station in Myrtle Beach and says he’s not one of the panic gas buyers seen at the pumps.

In fact, Morrison says his tanks were already filled before the shortage began.

He says he is a bit shocked some folks are loading up on fuel.

“It seems a bit crazy people hoarding up and stocking up when they don’t even need the gas,” Morrison said. “It makes no sense to me.”

He expressed some concern about where the path of panic buying will lead to.

“Of course, it happened with toilet paper, it happened with gas, what’s next, you never know,” he said.

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