Americans have been encouraged not to “hoard” fuel amid concerns that the Colonial Pipeline shutdown could cause fuel shortages across the US Southeast, as 17 states declare emergencies over the incident.
“Much as there was no cause for, say, hoarding toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, there should be no cause for hoarding gasoline,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said during a White House press briefing on Tuesday.
She added that “the pipeline will be back on line substantially this weekend”, according to the latest update from Colonial Pipeline.
Ms Granholm acknowledged that there would be a gasoline “crunch” in states where they received about 70 per cent of their total fuel from the pipeline, and that included states like North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
But residents should not be concerned about a gasoline shortage.
“We know that we have gasoline, we just have to get it to the right places,” she said. “And that’s why these next couple of days will be challenging … it’s not that we have a gasoline shortage, we have a supply crunch.”
This comes as emergency declarations were issued in 17 states and DC due to the pipeline shutdown. The emergency declaration covers Alabama, Arkansas, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Gas stations across the Southeast have already reported running out of fuel amid the pipeline closure.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 7.6 per cent of Virginia, 7.5 per cent of North Carolina, 5.2 per cent of Georgia, and 2.7 per cent of Florida gas stations were all out of fuel, according to data compiled by GasBuddy.
Gas prices were also on the rise due to the anticipated shortage. The national average jumped six cents this week to $2.96, an average the country hasn’t witnessed since 2014.
Panic buying has likely led to shortages at fuel stations and price hikes across the East Coast, given the US currently has a surplus of gasoline and oil supply due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Colonial Pipeline was expected to be “in a position to make a full restart decision” on Wednesday evening, Ms Granholm said.
Even if the company moves to restart the system tomorrow night, though, Ms Granholm said it would take a few days for the pipeline to restore its full operating service.
The pipeline system spans 5,500 miles and transports more than 100 million gallons a day between Texas and New Jersey, delivering roughly 45 per cent of the fuel used on the East Coast, according to the company.