As most of you know, there are gas lines all across Atlanta ever since Ike damaged the production capacities of the refineries in the Gulf. There is panic buying as people fill up when ever the meter gets below 3/4, and they're haording by keeping all their vehicles filled to capacity and using them basically as storage facilities against the total unavailability of gas. In effect, the psychological panic of the possibility of shortages, resulting in panic buying and haording, has created actual shortages. If prices were allowed to rise naturally, rather than remain fixed because if moronic anti-gouging laws, in response to short supply and high demand, there would be less panic buying and more gas to go around for when people really, really need it. People couldn't afford to haord it. If gas prices were say $15/gallon, how many people would fill up when the tank read 3/4 full? How many people would fill up all three SUV's just to hedge against a shortage? Not many. This would decrease demand pressure on the stations and allow their underground tanks to get filled up before they ran dry. But at $15/gallon people wouldn't be buying gas even if it was plentiful. So the station owner would look around, not see any customers, and have to lower his price to draw them back.
See how shortages can be avoided by allowing the supply/demand/price dynamic to dictate behavior? But politicians are more than happy to pander to stupid, government-educated citizens who don't understand how it works, by passing populist anti-gouging laws.
At some point in the near future, if we haven't already, America will reach a critical mass of citizens who get their news from E-True Hollywood Story, Entertainment Tonight, and American Idol and who feel, not think, their way through life. These are the people who want the bail-out bill to pass. To them, the government, not the market, is the answer to all of life's problems. If you left it to the market, these morons might have to think about things and make some decisions. I fear we're already there.