I just returned from running some errands, and stopped to fill up my vehicle. It was down around 1/4 tank. Usually, I'm a "10 regular" guy at the pump ($10 worth of regular gets me through a couple of days), but tonight I filled up, because I figured what the hell, tomorrow it'll be a nickel more expensive per gallon.
When I neared the station, I noticed a line of cars like I hadn't seen in quite awhile, particularly for 9PM at night. For those of you outside of New Jersey, I know it comes as a bit of a shock that gas is only $2.01 / gallon - but that's a 30 cent rise in pretty much the past week alone. As I got to the pump after a 10 minute wait, I noticed something - it seemed like everyone was topping off their tanks - and using the plastic to pay for it.
And it then occured to me - we've finally broken the psychological barrier of 2 bucks per gallon in the Garden State. Gas has never been this expensive. I started talking to a few other grumbling customers as my gas pumped, and they confirmed my suspicions:
People are "panic buying" for the same reason I did.
It's not a shortage thing yet, although I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying shortages will come at this rate, particularly as the weather warms and people are on the road more. Then I thought back to a news radio report I heard earlier today, where a petroleum industry spokesperson said that even with significantly increased prices, there's been increased demand, which didn't make a whole lot of sense to me until I pulled up to the pump tonight.
As long as consumption is stable or rising, even in the face of extortionist prices and record profits for oil companies, there will be no downward pressure on prices. So now, not only have the oil markets gone berserk, we have, too.
This carousel is going to come to a screeching halt sooner than later.