When a natural disaster of some sort occurs, one of the first things to happen is an immediate increase in the demand for gasoline. I can remember watching people who stood in line for hours, maybe even days, after Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast. If gas was even available prices were through the roof, the amount of fuel one could purchase was rationed and lines stretched for blocks. Woe be unto the person who had less than 1/4 tank of fuel in their vehicle just prior to the hurricane making landfall.
There are a few ways to avoid being like the individuals pictured above, which basically boils down to having extra gasoline on hand when a shortage occurs. The first and easiest thing to do is to always fill up your vehicle one it reaches 1/2 a tank. This way at no point in time will your vehicle ever slip below 1/2, thus giving you at least 150-200 miles driving range should the pumps go down.
The second and often more controversial method involves having gasoline stored on site in the ever popular red containers. Usually this is done with 5 gallon containers, although I have a few 6 gallon ones too. There are a few problems associated with doing this and you must be more proactive to avoid them. There is an obvious fire hazard risk posed by having 20 gallons of fuel sitting in a garage or storage shed, or even worse the basement (NOT recommended). Although easily transportable, the red fuel containers are not air tight and because of this the fuel quality degrades over time. While you might be able to use some of that 2 year old fuel to run your lawnmower, it probably wouldn’t be best to put that into your car.
The question then remains, how to avoid the problems associated with storing fuel on site for emergencies. After all having 20 gallons (4 x 5 gal container) on hand would surely be a blessing should a disaster occur. Even if your vehicle gets terrible gas mileage, 20 gallons of extra fuel could get you through a week or two of in town driving, or extend the range long enough so that you could locate working gas stations outside of the disaster area. While your personal storage solution is completely up to you here is what I have found to be effective.
1- Store the gas in a well ventilated area. I use my garage which gets plenty of air flow, and I never expose the gas cans to direct sunlight.
2- ROTATE through your supply. Realizing that the shelf life of the gas is short, maybe 3 months or so, I simply pour the gas into the vehicle and then refill the can(s). If you establish a staggered pattern it will alleviate having to do this with all of the cans at once.
By conducting my gasoline storage method in this way I avoid having to worry about fuel stabilizers or shelf life calculations. This combined with always keeping my vehicle’s tank above 1/2 hopefully ensures that should a disaster occur, I won’t be the guy standing in line for 10 hours in freezing temps just hoping to pay $10 a gallon for 2 gallons of rationed fuel.