When the pandemic began, everyone rushed to buy the most essential, most important items – namely toilet paper, for some reason – to prepare for the ensuing apocalypse. It was ridiculous, and all it really led to was an artificial shortage not caused by the pandemic but instead directly by the hoarding.
Well, ever striving for self-improvement, we humans have surely learned our lesson, right? Wrong – and this time it’s downright dangerous.
Following a large hack of Colonial Pipeline and mass panic over potential fuel shortages, people in North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida are scrambling to hoard as much gasoline as possible after the states declared an emergency. With not enough designated fuel canisters to go around and hysteria leading people to think irrationally, people are turning to any means necessary to carry their snatched gasoline, using standard household storage containers and supposedly plastic bags to hold it all.
Pictures and videos of people filling up plastic bags quickly circulated the internet – and were later revealed to be many years old by fact-checker Snopes – but nevertheless, the problem appears to be bad enough that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has been forced to issue a warning on Twitter.
Taking a moderate approach, they warn against the use of plastic bags as gasoline containers, but urge people to not look down on those doing so; instead, help them and warn them of the danger.
Following this tweet, they explained: "We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate they stop thinking clearly,"
"They take risks that can have deadly consequences. If you know someone who is thinking about bringing a container not meant for fuel to get gas, please let them know it's dangerous."
Although it may seem obvious to many, there are a host of good reasons why plastic bags should not hold volatile and flammable liquids. Firstly, most are not watertight and are not designed for holding liquids at all – in the old video, you can clearly see gasoline spilling from the bag. Alongside this, gasoline releases highly flammable fumes into the surrounding environment, hence why approved containers are sealed. In fact, the Portable Fuel Container Safety Act 2019 (approved in 2020) made it illegal to move gasoline in containers without adequate fire mitigation features, owing to the potential of explosions within plastic gas cans.
Finally, gasoline has a habit of dissolving many types of plastics, including those that are used in container construction, which is why containers must be approved. It is extremely likely that gasoline will readily chew through plastic bags, leaving the boot of many cars holding a ticking time bomb.
Fuel shortages and other limited supply of important materials always cause panic, but it is important to think about the needs of the many rather than the few. Since the pipeline hack, it has already begun pumping gas once more, so any shortages will be ending extremely soon. In the meantime, only fill up what is necessary and if you absolutely require more than one tank, use safe and approved containers.