How to Prepare for a Fuel Shortage

In the case of a fuel shortage, many of us are woefully unprepared. This is because although electrical outages due to storms are a fairly common part of our lives which we have learned to adapt to, most of us have never had to consider the risk of a fuel shortage.

Dark Gas Station

However, fuel shortages are very much possible, and are indeed common in some parts of the world. Things that can cause a fuel shortage include:

  • Disputes between fuel providers and their suppliers or employees
  • A long term, large scale electrical shortage causing the shutdown of gas stations.
  • The slow reduction in fossil fuels creating physical, financial, or legal restrictions which will stop us using fuel.
  • A run on fuel to escape a natural disaster, such as when 6 million people were evacuated from Florida.
  • Gas rationing, such as what happened in the 1970s.

In these situations, there are no ways of acting suddenly, so it is vital to be prepared well in advance. Here are some things we can do to prepare for a fuel shortage.

Use Less Fuel

If the shortage looks like it will affect you for more than a few days, work out how to use less fuel. For example, if you live far out from the city, consider buying in a month or more of groceries and focusing on frozen, freezable, or canned good, to minimize shopping trips. If you live in an urban setting, walk to the shops and shop little and often. Consider working from home if at all possible, or condensing your work days so you have to travel less. Carpooling and public transport are also great ways of splitting fuel costs, and conserving your fuel expenditure.

Have a Low-Fuel or Fuel-Free Transportation Alternative

If you really need to get around but your regular vehicle uses a lot of fuel, consider keeping an alternative which uses less fuel. What your alternative is will depend on where you live. If you live in the city and are close to the places you need to get, a bicycle is a good choice.


But if you live far out in the country and need to cover greater distances, a low-fuel motorbike or scooter could be a life-changer. Some people who live rurally can also benefit from using horses or cattle for travel. If you don’t have your own livestock, make arrangements with someone who does, in case you need fuel-free transportation urgently.

Keep a Stockpile of Fuel

This is a very clever idea, but many people get it wrong. The common mistake is to buy a pile of gas cans, fill them, and stash them away long term. Gas or diesel fuel in a gas can in your garage only has a healthy life of three to six months before it becomes useless. If you intend to keep a stockpile, fill up gas cans with 3 month’s worth of regular fuel to use and cycle them. That means keeping a date sticker on them, and when your fuel is low use it from the oldest can, and fill a new one. This cannot be done as effectively with more sensitive engines, though, as it can wear them down.

Always Keep Your Tanks Full

A simple way to make sure you are ready for a brief fuel shortage is just to keep your vehicle’s gas tank topped off. Again, you rarely get much warning before a fuel shortage hits, and by then it is too late to fuel up. By never letting your tank drop below half full you can make sure you have enough to keep you moving if there is a brief fuel shortage. This could make the difference between getting things done and not getting things done in a fuel shortage, or between running out of fuel fast and having enough fuel to get you to an area where the gas pumps are working.

Have Wood Burning and Coal Burning Heating Options

Finally, if your home uses gas or diesel to run your heating, you will need to have a few alternative options. A simple metal stove which burns wood or coal, has a chute to direct smoke out the window, and warms up the room quickly, could be a literal life saver if you need fuel to heat your home. If you are lucky enough to have a wood-burning fireplace, be sure to keep enough wood on hand to use to heat the house.

Wood Burning Stove

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