The claim: Photo shows trunk full of gas-filled plastic bags during 2021 gas shortage
In the wake of a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline – resulting in distribution problems and a spike in fuel prices – viral images of panic buyers hoarding gas in makeshift containers have surfaced on social media.
The 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of fuel for the East Coast, shut down on May 7 following a ransomware attack by a hacking group called DarkSide. Pipeline operations resumed on May 12.
Many photos circulating online attempt to highlight gas-buying frenzies, including one that purportedly shows the trunk of a car carrying plastic bags filled with fuel.
“You know the stupid has taken over when people put gas in trash bags in the trunk…..,” one Facebook user wrote along with the photo on May 13. Another post suggested the image was taken in South Carolina, where some gas stations were completely out of fuel.
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook users for comment.
Florida state Sen. Jason Pizzo shared the image on Twitter May 12 in a post with over 6,000 retweets. He wrote: “2020 PSA: Don’t inject bleach 2021 PSA: Don’t fill bags w/gas.”
Fact check:Yes, viral photo shows gas hoarding in Alabama after Colonial Pipeline hack
While there have been reports of people dispensing gas into plastic bags, the photo trending on social media is unrelated to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.
Image is from 2019
The photo of gas-filled plastic bags stuffed in a car trunk originates from a March 26, 2019, article from Mexican news outlet Noticieros Televisa.
According to the report, police arrested two people who were illegally transporting 20 bags containing 1,000 liters of gasoline in Puebla in central Mexico.
The image also appears in a March 2019 story from Borderland Beat headlined, “Unstoppable Huachicoleo: Stolen Gasoline is even sold in plastic bags.” Other Mexican publications shared the same photo and story at the time of the incident.
The claim comes amid a warning from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission urging people not to fill plastic bags with gasoline. It is unclear if the photo prompted the warning.
“We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate they stop thinking clearly,” the commission tweeted on May 12. “They take risks that can have deadly consequences. If you know someone who is thinking about bringing a container not meant for fuel to get gas, please let them know it’s dangerous.”
Fact check:Posts draw misleading comparison between Colonial Pipeline hack and unfounded election fraud claims
The commission also encouraged people to put gas only in approved containers and warned never pour gas on or near an exposed flame.
Our rating: False
An image claiming to show gas-filled plastic bags amid the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline is FALSE, based on our research. The photo is from March 2019 when police in Mexico arrested two people for illegally transporting gasoline. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently warned against filling plastic bags with gasoline.
Our fact-check sources:
- Noticieros Televisa, March 26, 2019, Two arrested for stealing gasoline and transporting it in plastic bags
- Borderland Beat, March 27, 2019, Unstoppable Huachicoleo: Stolen Gasoline is even sold in plastic bags
- Quintana Roo Hoy, March 28, 2019, Two arrested for stealing gasoline and transporting it in plastic bags in Puebla
- Excelsior, March 27, 2019, Ahora transportan huachicol hasta en bolsas de plástico en Puebla
- USA TODAY, May 12, ‘Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline’: US Consumer Product Safety Commission weighs in on gas shortage in Southeast
- US Consumer Product Safety Commission, March 12, Twitter thread
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