Overnight Drive to DC

in a gas crisis

It has been a hectic month for me, so no big piece of analysis this time, sorry. There will be more analysis and deep dives in mid to late-June when things settle down again. Subscribe to be the first to get notified of when new content comes out.

The trip north, from Miami to DC, during America’s brief gas crisis was long, stressful and a testament to the amount of information consumers have at their fingertips. News of the cyberattack hit one of my Signal group chats on 8 May. I did not think much of it until people started panic buying on 11 May. At that point, I had a bad feeling that we would be stuck in Florida for a bit if we did not leave the state soon. We decided that leaving on 11 May was not the best idea, but that we should leave on the evening of 12 May.

The day before we left, I did some analysis to make sure my partner and I could make it back to DC. Most people would guess that I did it in ArcMap with a suite of tools, but no. Everything I needed to do was done in Google Maps and GasBuddy. I found that the data from GasBuddy was the most frequently updated compared to Waze and other platforms that collected the same information. The data that I had access to allowed us to formulate a plan that would allow us to get home safely.

Our plan was a single straight shot through the night as the best chance of getting home without getting stranded. This was based on the idea that the under-prepared people who were trying to horde gas were not going to be at the gas station at 1 AM. Also, waiting in line while wasting the gas we had in our tank did not spark joy. Since we were going to drive through areas that had 70% or more stations without gas, we carried 10 gallons of gas in our trunk as a lifeboat to allow us to get to the next area where we could fill up.

Our drive was broken up into two phases. In the first phase — in Florida and Georgia, — we never let our tank get below half-full. According to my data, the pipeline shutdown did not effect these areas because the gas came directly from tankers in Miami and Jacksonville. In the second phase —in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia — we found gas once (in central SC) and used our stored gas in the trunk. These areas drew gas from the pipeline and has more people participating in panic buying.

In all, I do not suggest doing any part of this. Driving through the night is one of the least enjoyable car trips I have ever participated in. While modern gas cans are much more airtight than they used to be, they still release a small amount of fumes that make your car smell faintly of gasoline. When it comes around to using the gas, the spouts of modern gas cans make putting gas into a car a frustrating two person affair. I never want to do any of this ever again.