FACT CHECK: Does This Photo Show Plastic Bags Filled With Gasoline In South Carolina?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Twitter purportedly shows gasoline-filled plastic bags in South Carolina.

Verdict: False

The photo, taken in 2019, actually shows stolen gas in Mexico.

Fact Check:

A ransomware attack caused the Colonial Pipeline, the “largest refined products pipeline in the United States,” to shut down May 7, with operations resuming on May 12, according to CNBC. Panic buying in response to the shutdown intensified gasoline shortages in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S., USA Today reported.

Now, an image in a May 11 tweet shows what appears to be plastic bags containing gasoline inside the trunk of a car. The tweet reads: “Plastic bags filled with gas by morons in South Carolina. (RELATED: Does Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter Video Show A Fracking Site Releasing Toxic Emissions?)

While the photo does show gasoline in plastic bags, through a reverse image search, Check Your Fact found the image was not taken in the U.S. and predates Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown. The photo appeared in a March 2019 article published by Mexican outlet Televisa.NEWS, bearing the headline: “Two are arrested for stealing gasoline and transporting it in plastic bags in Puebla.”

“PF detains two men who tried to transport a thousand liters of fuel in plastic bags,” a translation of the photo’s caption reads. Televisa.NEWS credits the image to the now-defunct Twitter account of Mexico’s federal police.

A March 28, 2019, article from the publication Arena embedded a tweet from Mexico’s federal police that included a picture and described the incident.

“Elements of Gendarmería and @SEMAR_mx arrested two individuals in Huauchinango who wanted to carry more than a thousand liters of illegal gasoline in the trunk of their cars, distributed in plastic bags,” a translation of the March 26, 2019, tweet reads. “Moving fuel without safety measures is a risk for everyone.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sent several tweets on May 12 in response to consumer panic following the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. The agency’s tweet thread specifically urged people not to fill plastic bags with gasoline, and said, “Use only containers approved for fuel.”

“We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate they stop thinking clearly,” the CPSC tweeted. “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.”

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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