Now that fuel prices are approaching levels you probably never thought you’d see in your lifetime, black-market gasoline has become a thing. Local reports coming out of Nevada are claiming that thieves have begun loading up trucks with stolen gas so they can sell it at a discount. Considering the average price per gallon now exceeds $5.50 for the region, it’s easy to see why some people might be willing to roll the dice and buy discounted fuel of an unknown origin.
But the most lucrative scheme is to transport stolen gas into California, where the prices exceed $6.30 across the state. Here, thieves can sell their ill-gotten petroleum at broader margins. But it takes a special kind of vehicle and a little planning not to blow the additional profit on the trip itself. Tankers aren’t exactly easy to come by and are hardly the least-suspicious way to haul around stolen fuel, so thieves are modifying trucks and vans that can pass as light-duty vehicles.
With the Colonial Pipeline shut down due to last week’s ransom hacking, the Eastern United States has found itself running out of fuel. The line was shut down on Friday as a precaution and we’ve since learned that it’s not going to be reopened until this weekend — and maybe not even then.
While this has left some of us with fuel prices creeping aggressively toward $3 per gallon, other parts of the East Coast have seen panic buying and legitimate outages. But it’s hardly surprising when you consider the Colonial Pipeline is the country’s largest. Turning off the tap has ramifications and they’re manifesting all across the coast, though the situation appears to be substantially worse in southern states.
A Chevy Silverado owner in Florida snapped and attempted to run down a gas station attendant following a heated argument about fuel pumps. Frankly, we can’t imagine how anyone could be unhappy with fuel prices being so low, but this is Florida, a state whose motto of “In God We Trust” seems far less fitting than my proposed alternative of “Check This Out.”
America’s infamous panhandle is a wellspring of weirdness and, in true Florida fashion, the latest event is as terrifying as it is hysterical. While attempting to assault someone with a motor vehicle holds little humor in itself, watching that person fail as their agitated target (who had to get in the last word) takes a near-perfect pratfall offers so much instant relief, the mind can’t help itself.
You’ve probably noticed retailers are increasingly using the little chip on your credit or debit card to accept transactions. Unfortunately, fueling stations have been slower to adopt the change in digital security, as it requires more than simply putting a new screen at the checkout counter. Gas stations have to install expensive new pumps, which is why you tend to see more chip readers at the larger stations. Costco will definitely have them, but that little convenience store near your house where you fill up on Monday mornings may not.
Unfortunately, station operators that haven’t updated their pumps by October 2020 will become liable for any credit card fraud that occurs at their businesses now that Visa and Mastercard have rejected a request to further delay the deadline for chip readers.
General Motors is updating its on-board digital marketplace to allow customers to purchase fuel without ever having to leave the vehicle. You’ll still have to leave the confines of the vehicle to actually pump the gas, unless you live in New Jersey, but the exchange of money is handled entirely by the world’s first “in-dash fuel payment system.”
What a time to be alive.
The new service is available via the Shell widget, which is already featured on GM’s Marketplace app (providing directions to the nearest Shell station). The corporate collaboration allows respective patrons to select a nearby Shell station, use the map to navigate there, park, select a pump, fill up, and drive away. Payment is automatically charged through Shell’s Fuel Rewards program.
I’m old enough to remember when self-serve gasoline stations were an innovation. That was some time after filling station attendants stopped washing your windshield and checking your oil, or even giving you a free set of steak knives or glass tumblers with a fill-up along with actually pumping your fuel. Age perhaps makes my memory imprecise, but I believe the change from full-service to self-service happened sometime after OPEC started jacking up the price of petroleum.
Since it was a way of saving a few pennies a gallon as fuel costs were increasing, self-serve was so popular that it spread across the fruited plains to the point where in many places in America today you can’t find anyone to pump your gas, let alone provide what used to be considered full service. Self-serve was embraced at the gas pump and it has pullulated to other retail establishments. I can’t remember the last time I went through a checkout lane with an actual human cashier when buying groceries, much as it annoys me to have a machine say “Thank you for shopping at Meijer.”
We now live in a self-serve world. Well, except for New Jersey and Oregon. Until now, both of those states have prohibited self-serve gasoline stations, but it looks like starting this year New Jersey will have that distinction all to itself.
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