Is the Gas Shortage About Demand or Supply?

Sullivan has a nice roundup of commentary on the NYC gas runs of the last few days.  It got me thinking: All of the commentary addresses the demand side of the equation.  Many people in the gas lines aren’t actually planning on driving; they want to have their car’s tank filled just in case.  If they weren’t standing in line for this essentially psychological reason, gas stations probably would not run out of gas for people who planned on using it right away.

What this overlooks is that there are relatively few gas stations in New York City.  Anyone who’s ever driven into the city for the first time can relate how maddening it is to find a place to fill the tank before turning in the rental car at a local rental shop.  The rental companies probably love it since they are more likely than rural renters to charge an exorbitant fee for turning the car in with less than a full tank.  But for the rest of us, it makes life harder.

I know that my anecdote doesn’t prove that New York City has less gas stations per capita (or per automobile) than other areas.  I tried to find a grid plot of city gas stations, but no luck.

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