Paying attention now?

As anyone living in the Southeast knows, Hurricane Ike [caused] a massive gas scare. Prices skyrocketed as people scurried to avoid being gasless—a terrible fate if, like many in the South, you’ve had to take a job an absurd distance from your home due to downsizing or other economic reasons. This crisis, coming so shortly after the recent spikes in gas prices, was enough to nauseate even the strongest-stomached driver.

However, the scare … was short-lived. Only days after Ike’s landing, prices were normal again and pipelines supplying most of the South [remained open]—except for the Appalachian region of Western North Carolina, where prices remain high and pumps remain dry. Before Ike, my nearest station was charging $3.25 to $3.45, depending on the day. The price there is still fluctuating at or just above $4 a gallon—if there is even gas at all. My family and I haven’t been able to risk driving on fumes all the way to the station to wait in line for 15 minutes [up to] two or more hours, only to be turned away because the pumps are [by then] empty.

That seems to be a common story in the Asheville-Hendersonville region. But [the region seems] isolated. My professor, who commutes daily to UNCA from less than 30 minutes away, passed local stations with completely average gas prices and plenty of gas on Monday, deciding he would fill up in town. [Here,] every station he came to had dry pumps or gas too expensive to buy.

How is it possible?

Public officials give responses such as no drivers for the oil tankers. In what way does that make even the barest amount of sense? Did all the people who drove these vital supply trucks before Ike spontaneously combust? Have they silently gone on strike? Mass murder?

There is no explanation for why the gas cannot travel the additional 60 to 80 miles to get where it needs to be. And for some unknown reason, people seem to be frighteningly more than willing to simply sit down and accept this fact.

The WNC gas crisis is [one of several] inexplicable problems occurring around and across our nation in recent years, and the thing I find most horrifying is that students—both college and high school—are the ones who have to bring this to our attention. As the T-shirts say, if you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.

But what if you are paying attention, and you just don’t care? Or are my friends and I the only ones who can see how we’re being slowly driven into poverty by these practices?

I hope that anyone reading this begins to realize just how little we are being told—whether there is a shortage or not.

— Farrah Zahran

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