As you have probably heard by now, if not experienced first-hand, the Metro Atlanta area and a good portion of the entire Southeast is low on fuel. You can read any of the articles linked above to read the how, why and specific logistics of the shortage. In brief, it’s due to tropical storm Ike and hurricane Gustav and their collective damage in the Gulf of Mexico. The state of Georgia and many of the Southeastern states get their gas from Texas.
While I don’t own a car myself, I ventured out yesterday to attempt to fill up my mother’s car for her. The rumors of the city being out of gas today and not receiving more until the middle of October, understandably sent many heading to the pumps this weekend to see if they could find a few more gallons to allow them to putter through traffic another few extra miles. Cars are stranded at gas stations everywhere, often sitting right in front of an empty pump. Local news outlets are requesting residents don’t call 911 when stranded without gas. AAA is on every other corner, supplying a gallon or tow-truck.
Anyone who knows me is my familiar with my addiction to a site called Twitter. Twitter is a free micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates, commonly known as “tweets.” Tweets are text-based posts, up to 140 characters. Tweets are posted to the Twitter website via SMS messaging, instant messaging or a third-party application. Due to the ease and speed of updating this service, I decided to create a hashtag (#atlgas) specifically used to track where there is and isn’t gas available in the Atlanta area.
Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They are like tags on photos, blog posts, etc, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag. You can track hashtags through a number of tools. The easiest method is by searching for #hashtag in Twitter’s search engine (search.twitter.com).
While driving around in search of gas, I would insert the #atlgas hashtag in my tweets with the station name, street intersection, and what grade gas they had available, if any. I posted to my Twitter profile that I was doing this and for my Followers (users subscribed to my updates) to re-tweet (re-posting a tweet on Twitter) how to use the hashtag and to encourage other users to report their finds.
The hashtag has been circulating for three days now and there have been hundreds of updates from the entire Metro Atlanta area with gas reports. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution posted a link to the search results for the hashtag on the front page of their website which has spawned an abundance of new Atlanta-based Twitter users, reporting and tracking gas availability, in addition to local citizens checking back to the search results for the latest.
Due to the gas availability in the area slipping to slim to none today, the usage of the #atlgas hashtag has increased greatly, causing the hashtag to become one of the top trending topics on Twitter. You can track these trending topics directly from the sidebar on Twitter’s search page.
Other online tools have been discovered and implemented to help Atlanta residents find nearby gas stations.
- Jam Code has a free online tool and iPhone application called GasBag where users can enter their zipcode to find gas prices at stations in their area. (Gas stations out of gas result in –.– under price.) Not sure how up-to-date this tool is but after brief trial of my neighborhood, it appears to be fairly accurate.
- 11 Alive News allows visitors to report and search for gas availability by city.
- Atlanta Gas Prices lists stations, gas prices & date/time reported (Note: Trust with caution, not always accurate.)
If you know of any other good resources, please let me know! It is rumored the Atlanta area won’t be getting any real supply of gas coming in until the middle of October. This will have major affects on our commuter-heavy city.
If you must drive:
- Drive the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases at higher speeds.
- Limit aggressive driving. Speeding, quick acceleration, and excessive braking all lower your gas mileage.
- Use overdrive. If your vehicle has a manual overdrive, make sure it is on; overdrive reduces engine speed, which helps to save gas.
- Use cruise control to improve gas mileage by maintaining a constant speed.
- Use air conditioning when traveling at highway speeds; driving with the windows open decreases gas
- Avoid idling: idling for longer than 30 seconds uses more gas than starting up your engine. (Especially when waiting in line for gas.)
- Fill your tires with air.
- The Oil Drum has written a post about the inventory problems which are causing these gasoline shortages.
- The Consumerist is now covering the hashtag adoption/usage.
- Google Maps offers some help, though updated less frequently.
- Wright Express Fuel Price Mapping gives fuel info based off of recent credit card transactions