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There's a lot of driving in The Walking Dead.

The survivors drive from Atlanta, then back to Atlanta, then away from Atlanta in a caravan of vehicles.

Where do they get the gasoline to fuel their vehicles?

If I recall correctly, in the premier episode, Rick was unable to find enough gasoline for his single police cruiser to make it to Atlanta, and had to switch to horseback.

Additionally, wouldn't accessing gasoline from gas stations require electricity to get the pumps working?

So how did the survivors get enough gas to keep their caravan moving?

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Is this specific to the show, or is material from the comic usable as well? I can provide numerous references from the comic, but the show only provides a scene or two. –  Ian Pugsley Feb 17 '12 at 16:45
    
I think answers from the comic would be welcome. –  Beofett Feb 17 '12 at 16:46
    
If they hadn't of blown it up at the end of The Road Warrior they could have gotten it from the feral kids refinery in the desert. –  Major Stackings Apr 9 '13 at 16:18
    
I think in the pilot it wasnt that the service station was empty it was that Rick couldnt or didnt know how to access the gas beyond lift the pump nozzle and see if anything came out plus the little girl freaked him out so he wanted to get away fast –  severa Oct 15 '13 at 1:59
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4 Answers

up vote 21 down vote accepted

I imagine the most abundant and readily available source of gasoline would be abandoned or parked cars. Just siphon it out of the gas tank like T-Dog does in this scene. No electricity needed... just a crowbar, tubing, and a gas can.

There are also references to siphoning gas out of parked cars in the comics, as stated in this excerpt from the synopsis of "The Best Defense" (issues #25-30):

Glenn discovers the prison's armory, complete with shotguns and full riot gear. Inspired by the new equipment, the group plans to siphon gasoline out of the remaining cars in the prison parking lot.

In addition, in "The Calm Before" (issues #37-42) the group discovers several canisters of gas at a military base.

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Actually in the series Survivors, gasoline eventually becomes scarce as well and was rationed. Which is more realistic. –  Mark Rogers Oct 9 '12 at 13:31
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There are places that gasoline and diesel can be found depending on how long it has been since society completely collapsed.

  • Other Vehicles - If you are patient enough you can siphon quite a bit of fuel from all the abandoned cars.
  • Gas Stations - While the pumps may not work due to lack of eletricity, if you pry up the lids over the main tanks (which are underground) you can either hand pump or use something like a well bucket to bring fuel up.
  • Farms - Most farmers have diesel and/or gasoline stored in large quantities to power their farming vehicles.
  • Tanker Trucks - The distribution system for fuel in the United States is massive. You are bound to find at least one tanker truck somewhere if you look.
  • Emergency Services - Most hospitals, police stations, and firestations have stores of fuel on hand either for generating power or for use in vechiles.

The real question is how long had services stopped before most of the people were wiped out. If it was a slow process there are going to be fewer resources, because of scrounging from lots of survivors. If the apocalypse happened fairly quickly then most of the resources should be untouched, because there weren't enough humans left to consume them.

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This would be a good answer to a totally different question, but as it is, it's purely speculative. Some references to this behavior in-universe would be nice. –  Ian Pugsley Feb 17 '12 at 16:46
    
@IanPugsley A question like, in a zombie apocalypse where should I look for fuel? –  Jack B Nimble Feb 17 '12 at 16:51
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Remove the word zombie and this is still appropriate. This isn't asking "where can I get fuel in an apocalypse," it's asking "Where do the characters from this story find fuel in this story?" Speculation is fine, but it should be secondary to actual in-story evidence. –  Ian Pugsley Feb 17 '12 at 16:55
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@IanPugsley I don't agree that this doesn't answer the question. I think it answers it fine. The fact that there are so many available resources for obtaining gas is a proper answer to why is is only rarely seen in the show, they don't make a big deal out of it because it isn't really a big deal. –  NominSim Feb 17 '12 at 21:20
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@IanPugsley Ah I see, I figure it answers the question fine as the question doesn't really seem to be an in-universe question...seems similar to "how do Harry Potter characters breath air?" The answer isn't in-universe because the question isn't either. –  NominSim Feb 17 '12 at 21:34
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On the show, they occasionally show gas being siphoned or the characters finding some fuel somewhere. As near as i can tell, where the TV series is at now, it's only been a little less than a year since the ZPOC. If I'm correct, then most gas should be deteriorating or totally bad, but there's not much competition for it and they should be able to keep their vehicles running. Even with the ready availability of questionable fuel, it's still utterly ridiculous that they're driving full-size Ram pickups. Fuel economy would be ultra important, as you don't want to spend a lot of time stopping/scavenging for fuel/risking an empty tank while on a longer run.

The truth is, if they're still driving a few seasons from now, I'll have lost all respect for the show. The gas will be GONE by then.

I wish I'd followed the comic book; they're obviously ahead of the show on the timeline, and I'm wondering how they get around in later issues.

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I don't watch or read Walking Dead, but the United States currently uses more petrol than the entire rest of the world combined. In 2011, that was 134 billion gallons. Now, if a zombie apocalypse occurred, the number of people driving cars would drop dramatically. And the survivors would likely use far less gas individually (assuming they're not driving around in full-size pickups and Chevy Suburbans all the time). Between gasoline pipelines, tankers, barges, and storage terminals, there should be plenty of gasoline to supply the lucky few who come across them for quite some time. –  Lèse majesté Jul 24 '13 at 5:29
    
So maybe 90% of survivors wouldn't have access to gasoline, but the other 10% would probably have more gasoline than they could use for a decade or more. Though they might need to add ethanol into the gasoline themselves or just run on pure gasoline, which burns less efficiently. –  Lèse majesté Jul 24 '13 at 5:31
    
It's also important to note that they haven't really driven all that far. If you plot everything on the map, you're looking at less than a day or two of driving from furthest point to point in the comics and far less in the tv show. –  phantom42 Jul 24 '13 at 12:55
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The Fuel would not stay good long enough for the Survivors to be using it depending upon how long it has been since the fuel has been produced. Gasoline is good for about 6 months and its effectiveness is greatly impaired without additives such as Sta-Bil but this is not in gasoline and has to be purchased in small containers so this to me is something that would not be readily available and would be considered an "Inaccuracy". Still Love the show though

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Apparently petrol can be stored indefinitely in air tight containers. How did you arrive at your 6 month figure? –  bitmask Oct 9 '12 at 10:28
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I've also seen six months tossed around, but this thread claims 1-2 years. Although The Straight Dope doesn't list exact numbers, he does agree that improperly stored gasoline goes bad (and ethanol makes it worse). He also defines proper storage requirements, which I doubt the average abandoned car would meet. I suspect, depending on time passed, it's luck of the draw whether someone can find working gasoline. –  John C Oct 9 '12 at 11:13
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I let an ATV sit for a year while I was out of the country on business. When I got back it ran fine and used the remainder of the gas in the tank. The only problem is "varnishing" and that's in vehicles with a carburetor. –  user12794 Feb 26 '13 at 19:16
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"Goes bad" doesn't mean a switch is flipped on day 181 and it's useless. It means deteriorating quality and mpg going down. If they aren't getting the 30mpg they were getting at the start of the show, they hardly have room to complain. –  John O Feb 26 '13 at 19:30
    
I've seen a lot of sources agree that gasoline usually goes bad after some period of time. That duration varies quite wildly, though, due to a number of factors (not least of which is how long ago the gasoline was originally refined). –  Beofett Feb 26 '13 at 19:32
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