Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Hoard Gas Right Now—or Ever

To start, you don't need to. And it's gonna expire... if it doesn't explode first.

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You may have heard that the eastern United States is facing localized gas shortages after a cyberattack shut down the Colonial Pipeline. This specific pipeline is one of the biggest such arteries in the U.S., supplying the east coast with more than 45 percent of those states’ fuel. As you’d expect with a public that’s been through food, water, medical care, and toilet paper shortages in the past year thanks to COVID-19, people freaked out. 

What’s frustrating is that the hack is only part of the fuel shortage story. The situation has been exacerbated because panicking people began hunting for extra boom-juice wherever they could. And, when others saw their neighbors and friends hoarding it, people began to improvise fuel storage containers with whatever they could. As you’d expect, social media went ablaze with photos and snapshots of Americans filling plastic bags, storage boxes, and even chemical/water tanks used for agriculture and livestock, all of which are not approved containers, as per a reminder by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC). 

No gas, but it isn’t because of the hack., AP Images

And just like the USCPSC felt obligated to chime in, so too do we. You see, not only is it bad to store gas in unapproved containers—more on that in a second—but it’s also a terrible long-term, or even short-term, plan to hoard gasoline. Why? Let’s get into that.

Is it Dangerous To Use a Non-Approved Container for Gas?

You bet your hindquarters it is. Gasoline is extremely corrosive, and gas cans, jerry cans, gas tanks, and other approved gas containers go through rigorous testing and are subject to strict standards. The EPA revised its rules on what is and isn’t allowed for gas container manufacturing and sale in 2009, introducing far more stringent rules on the products. 

These rules are in place so that stored fuel doesn’t eat through the container, spill out onto your garage’s floor, and come precariously close to an exposed, shorting wire that could ignite and turn your garage into a fireball. 

Improvised gasoline containers like plastic bags, plastic totes, water tanks, two-liter pop bottles, etc, are all vulnerable to the real possibility of being eaten away by the gasoline itself. If this occurs, you’d then be left with a massive spill in your trunk or garage, and/or the very real potential for a fire or explosion. What we’re saying is don’t put gasoline in non-approved gas containers. 

Additionally, stop and think for a moment. How would you, theoretically, get the gas out of a plastic bag? You wouldn’t, so again, this is a very bad idea. Don’t do it.

Is It Bad to Hoard Gas?

Listen, it’s not the almighty toilet paper everyone was looking for in March of last year. Although TP will last, so long as you don’t use it, gasoline actually has a shelf-life. 

Taken from our article, How Long Does Gas Last?, here’s what you need to know: “There is no line of text on your gas station receipt that marks your gasoline’s expiration date. According to Exxon Mobil, though, gas in a sealed container is estimated to last for approximately six months, give or take a month or two. When left unused, it begins to oxidize, degrade, and lose combustibility.”

So what you’re doing when you fill up a 200-gallon water tank, at $4.36 a gallon, is wasting $872, as that gas is going to be bad in a few short months. No one likes to waste money. 

Not to mention you’re taking away resources from your fellow humans, which isn’t a good look, especially in the age of social media where your hoarding face will be plastered all across Twitter’s trending section. Do you want to be social media famous for all the wrong reasons?

So How Should Gas Be Stored? 

Again pulled from our How Long Does Gas Last?: “Gas should be stored in an approved container designed specifically for storing gasoline and alike combustibles. You can find these in the form of both metal gas cans and plastic gas cans. Once the gas is in those containers, it should be stored in a dry cool place out of the way of heavy foot traffic and away from anything that could have an open flame or create spark. Do not, however, store large amounts of gasoline or hoard gasoline at any time. Not only does this present a major safety issue, it could also create more waste if it goes unused.”

And How Should Gas Be Disposed Of?

Say you were one of those folks who panicked. Six months later you have a bunch of expired gasoline. and need to get rid of it. But how? Where? You can’t just put it in your tank and hope for the best or dump it in your backyard. Well, your Guides & Gear team has you covered as we’ve already written about this in our guide, How to Dispose of Old Gas article.  

From that article, “Find a local recycling and/or toxic waste disposal facility, call for and/or read specific instructions, and drop it off at the designated area. Yes, it’s that simple, but always make sure you do so with a sealed container that is meant to hold gasoline for extended periods of time.”

What Should I Do Until Gas Returns to The Pumps?

According to U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, “It’s not that we have a gasoline shortage, it’s that we have this supply crunch, and that things will be back to normal soon.”

What that means is you don’t have to worry. There’s no gas shortage if you look at our country’s total supplies—but there are obstacles preventing it from reaching the growing number of stations that have run dry across the Southeast. Things should calm down within a week, not that that’s helpful if you truly need gas right now and are stuck waiting in endless, ’70s style lines at the pump.

Until then, don’t hoard gas, don’t put gas in unapproved containers, and maybe, just maybe, treat your fellow people how you’d like to be treated. 

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Jonathon Klein Avatar

Jonathon Klein


Jonathon is the former Managing Editor for Commerce at The Drive and has been writing about cars and motorcycles for over a decade, but he’s been known to scribble pretty things about adoption, tattoos, life, gear, adventures, food, technology, nature, and more.