A graphic calling the East Coast fuel supply crunch "Biden's Gas Crisis". A tweet speculating that gas stations running dry was an "INSIDE JOB". A meme depicting the President and Vice President cheering about the "Green New Deal" in front of a snaking line at a fuel station.
These and thousands of other social media posts along with conservative websites and commentators this week spread conspiracies about the gas shortage. Many painted US President Joe Biden and his administration as catalysts of chaos, which not only mishandled the temporary shutdown of the nation's largest fuel pipeline, but engineered it.
In reality, it was a ransom-seeking cyberattack triggered the shutdown that drove residents of states such as North Carolina to panic-buy so much gas that nearly 70 per cent of service stations.
Biden, seeking to assuage fears, reassured the public that remaining outages at gas stations were a "temporary situation" that panic-buying would only exacerbate.
Still, some of the most widely shared messages on social media discussing the fuel crunch only encouraged the panic. Some images appeared to show people filling plastic bags and other makeshift containers with gas.
The heightened concern eventually prompted the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a bizarre warning online.
"We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate they stop thinking clearly," the message continued. "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."
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg issued a similar warning, saying "under no circumstances should gasoline ever be put into anything but a vehicle directly or an approved container".
Conspiracy theories about the fuel crunch, primarily aimed at attacking Biden, continued to spread online.
"Wouldn't it be weird if the CYBER-ATTACK that shutdown the United States' top fuel line was an INSIDE JOB to pretend Joe Biden isn't responsible for the insane increase in gas price," read a widely shared tweet by former Florida congressional candidate Chuck Callesto.
"People can't complain about gas prices if there's no gas to buy," read the caption of an image depicting a sinister Biden with his fingers interlaced, retweeted by Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert.
Other posts claimed the long gas lines across the Southeast US were a harbinger of America's future under Democrats, casting Biden as a socialist in a strategy that Republicans have frequently turned to in recent years.
"Gas shortages now, food shortages tomorrow?" tweeted Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren. "Wow ... starting to feel like socialism is on the way..."
In another narrative, posts equated Biden to former President Jimmy Carter, who saw his presidency crumble as a result of the 1979 fuel shortage.
A statement from former President Donald Trump on Wednesday local time, amplified by conservative websites including Breitbart News, branded a laundry list of national and global challenges as Biden's fault.
"Jimmy mishandled crisis after crisis, but Biden has CREATED crisis after crisis," Trump wrote. "First there was the Biden Border Crisis (that he refuses to call a Crisis), then the Biden Economic Crisis, then the Biden Israel Crisis, and now the Biden Gas Crisis."
Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity on Tuesday first broadcast the graphic of Biden smiling with the words "Biden's Gas Crisis," a term that later gained momentum on Facebook and Twitter.
Recent world events have challenged the Biden administration in its economic goals. Over the past week, it has faced a disappointing monthly jobs report, worrisome signs of inflation and escalating violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip with deaths that could foreshadow a war in the Middle East.
All the while, Biden is still attempting to vaccinate the nation against the coronavirus, distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in economic aid and negotiate his own infrastructure and families plans that total a combined US$4 trillion.