Posts Tagged ‘Emergency Preparedness’

Running on Empty: Petrol Panic in UK

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Could We Face the Same?

I recommend my readers check out this piece over the UK Telegraphon what is going on with our friends across the pond.  They’re experiencing a fuels shortage to the extent that the government is being urged to begin an emergency program of rationing.  The issue began when a union of truck drivers who deliver fuels threatened to go on strike, and a government official, Francis Maude, a Cabinet Officer advised people to fill up their tanks and store fuel in storage containers.  Quite naturally, the people responded by doing just that, emptying filling stations everywhere.  While telling the people not to panic, the British government incited a panic, and the resultant run on fuels, in a shortage so severe that first responders there are having difficulty finding fuel to run their ambulances.   What we should learn from all of this are at least two important lessons, and I hope my readers will take note:  Governments cause panics by their actions, but more importantly, our fuel supply is more vulnerable than most people think, because of the structure of the supply chain.

If you drive to your favorite filling station, most days there will be no problem.  You’ll simply dispense the fuel, pay and depart, and there’s no fuss about any of it.  What most people don’t realize is that the amount of fuel out at filling stations is based on the expected, ordinary quantity demanded, and while there may be some small amount in surplus, it’s really not much more than a day or two extra under ordinary conditions.  Fuels are dangerous to store in large quantities, and EPA regulations have made the job harder, but most important is the notion of just-in-time inventory management which means retailers don’t keep more on hand than they will immediately sell under normal conditions.

The reason this matters to consumers is that it means that any small fluctuation upward in quantity demanded can quickly lead to a shortage. As we should have learned in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, anything that causes a shortage at the margins in one locale can quickly spread to others.  If there’s a run on fuels in just a few key locations locally, it can spread like a wildfire as displaced customers shift their demand to other locations, driving those to shortage, and thus pushing the shortage around.  As the shortages spread, panic takes hold, so that people descend on every location for fuel they can find.

This tells us a little bit about the psychology of the market and why such shortages can materialize for no apparent good reason, looking at the matter on a macro scale:  Is there enough fuel for immediate demands? Had people simply gone on with their ordinary purchasing patterns, would there have been a serious market-wide shortage?  No.  The problem lies in the fact that people can be moved by fear and uncertainty regarding the immediate future.  The notion that some days in the future, tanker drivers in the UK might be on strike, and might cause a shortage, was enough to cause a government official to make remarks that started a panic.  Even if the strike never materializes, it will take days or even weeks for the UK to restore things to the normal flow.

What this also should remind us is that on-hand supplies at retail outlets is never nearly what the whole market might demand at once.  At any one time, the capacity of every filling station is just a small fraction of the total capacity of every vehicle’s tank.  When everybody goes to fill up at the same time, the situation is made evident, because the on-hand retail supply can in no way match the condensed time frame of such a move by consumers to tank-up.  In the UK, they’re openly talking about rationing now as a way to restore the normal flow.

The more interesting part about this problem is the human psychology implied: When faced with potential shortages, we tend to horde in response, and this can clearly add to the problems.In the US, where we are much more dependent on fuels to maintain the course of our daily lives, commute and travel distances being so much greater, we’re especially vulnerable to panics generated by short-run, geographically-limited marginal shortages. For this reason, the US can be subject to very small-scale shortages turning into regional or even nationwide problems.  It doesn’t take much.  If a few gas stations over a metropolitan area run short, it can ripple outward and spread like a virus. People begin panic-buying almost as soon as they hear that there is a shortage somewhere nearby.

This is why our current situation is actually so precarious.  It doesn’t take much but a day or two of delayed replenishing in distribution to cause a serious problem.  This is also another reason we should seek to increase not only the amount of oil we produce domestically, but also to increase our refining capacity. The situation underway in the UK  is small compared to the impact such a panic could cause here, primarily because the geographical expanse of our country means that public mass transit isn’t economically viable in most areas.  In short, we need our fuel, and our lives have evolved to depend upon it.  It’s bad enough when governments do idiotic things like start a panic, but what’s worse is when they’re so utterly unprepared when they happen without government prompting.

The American people should be made aware that panic hoarding only worsens the problem and increases the span of time before a situation driven by natural disasters is resolved.  The goal in such a situation should be to delay purchase as long as possible, but that’s so counter to our nature that I don’t expect many people to react in perfectly rational ways.  The other problem we face is political, in that too few Americans understand just how fragile this system has become, and with it, all the dependencies upon which it relies.  If more Americans understood just how reliant they really are on an energy supply to maintain their standard of living, they might bring more pressure on politicians to get out of the way.

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Wyoming Preparing for Disaster; Washington DC Making One

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Considering "Doomsday"

Leave it to the good people of Wyoming to bring enough pressure to bear on their politicians that they have now actually begun to prepare for the worst crises that could arise, as they consider the condition of the Federal government, its debt, and the potential for civil unrest.  They’re even considering what to do about their armed forces should the worst occur, and this landlocked state is now considering how they would acquire an aircraft carrier.  That may seem just a little hard to swallow for some, but I think it speaks to the willingness of their legislature to prepare for the worst.  I believe the measures are prudent, and if only we could get the politicians in Washington DC to see it their way, there might well be a chance we’d avoid at least any “man-caused disasters.”  The sneering elites in Washington think this is high comedy, but for down-to-Earth Americans, not only in Wyoming, but elsewhere across the expanses of “fly-over country,” there is a keen awareness of how much trouble we’re facing.

In Washington DC, they have your money upon which to rely in order to continue their spending habits.  Out in Wyoming and around the country, state and local governments have seen a general reduction in revenues.  Property values are down, so property tax receipts are also reduced, and with so many homes in foreclosure, there’s been a corresponding rise in delinquency on property taxes owed.  In Washington DC, they just print up another batch, and they don’t have to worry about the cash because they can always raise taxes, or borrow more.  This is at the heart of the disconnect between the permanent ruling class in Washington DC that sees no emergency looming, but instead suspects it can make due on your back indefinitely.

Thankfully for the people of Wyoming, their legislature is at least considering the worst scenarios.  While we can ridicule the idea of a Wyoming armed force including an aircraft carrier, perhaps we shouldn’t be laughing, and instead checking with our own state and local governments to find out what sort of preparations they’re making.  Chances are, they’re not.  At this point, while Wyoming commissions a little money with which to study the matter, the Federal Government continues to the brink.  Spending, and borrowing, and regulating our lives has become its sole purpose judging by what they’ve done in the last few decades, but when it comes to the things it ought to do, the Federal government has no shortage of excuses.

Rather than mocking the Wyoming legislature for its so-called “Doomsday Bill,” perhaps the thing to do is to instead ask our own state and local officials what they’re doing to prepare.  They’ll baffle you with their local Office of Emergency Management, but I doubt any of them are thinking as broadly or constructively as the legislature of Wyoming.  They’re considering things like issuing their own currency if it comes to that, and how to deal with the worst behaviors of other men.  That’s not a bad starting point, and I wonder if while the elites in Washington DC are laughing now, should the worst arise, would the people of Wyoming have the last laugh.  It’s time for the laughing boys in DC to get the hint and take their cue from the folks in Wyoming, and begin to prepare this country for the hell that it coming, and that they’re creating.  They won’t, of course.

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Titanic 2.0: Why the Elite Can Vote for Lefties

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Too Few Lifeboats

Many of us wonder how it is that people who ought to have known better can possibly bring themselves to vote for the statists who are undermining the country.  Much like when the Titanic went down one-hundred years ago this coming tax-day, the elite are boarding the life-boats ahead of all the rest of us second-class and cargo-hold passengers.  Another of the rich and famous is making his plans for exit to New Zealand, as this time Hollywood director James Cameron is looking to get out of Dodge.  This should clear up the seeming contradiction, and just as I have told you that the elite don’t fear Obamacare as you must, if you love your life, for the same reasons, these same people don’t fear the collapse of the United States.  They’ll simply get themselves to the front of the line for the lifeboats, as America hits the last in a string of icebergs and heads to the bottom.

Don’t worry!  They love you!  They have compassion for you.  It’s just that, well, they don’t want their necks stretched when the rioting begins, so they’re going to get the hell out, which is an option that won’t be open to you.  No, you won’t be able to liquidate your assets and pull out for safer harbor, because after all, in a collapsing economy with a crumbling currency, to whom will you sell your homes and your chattel, and in the world in which you’ll be selling it, what do you suppose it will be worth?

No, these elites can come up with all the excuses under the sun, but their actions speak louder than their words. It’s about to get exceedingly ugly, and as they lock you down in the cargo hold, singing the praises of the captain of our stricken ship of state, we’re stuck.  They’ve made this mess, and now it will be we who will pay for it.  Don’t worry too much, however, because we’re safe until we see them actually flee for their faraway havens.  At that point, we’ll know.  You shouldn’t fail to prepare as best you can.