Unwarranted panic buying of gasoline has led to a self-fulfilling prophecy across the Southeast, analysts say.
In the wake of the shutdown of a major gas pipeline by hackers, several areas across the Southeast, including the Lakeway Area, are experiencing shortages of gas. That problem is being exacerbated by “panicked” buyers filling up when unnecessary or using multiple containers to hoard gas.
Hamblen County officials encouraged people to avoid hoarding gas and to exercise prudence as the supply chain is reinstated.
“We currently have a shortage, not an outage in the Lakeway Area,” the county’s statement read.
It was a message echoed by Chris Liposky, CEO of Rogers Petroleum, a Morristown-based company that supplied fuel to much of the Southeast Appalachian region.
Liposky said the supply of fuel has slowed, but it hasn’t stopped. He noted other pipelines serve the Southeast and can be accessed. He also said Colonial Pipeline resumed operations manually late Monday, and Colonial anticipates restarting most of its operations by the end of the week
He also said disruptions to the supply chain have happened before.
“Supply has been disrupted before, when we’ve had hurricanes or ice storms in Texas,” he said, adding consumer reactions to supply chain issues are predictable, pointing to the run on toilet paper early in the pandemic.
“Those are consumer reactions you’re not gonna stop,” he said, adding those reactions exacerbated the problem.
Liposky said gasoline consumers and suppliers may face inconveniences for a few days as the slow down continues, but he expects the supply chain will be back to normal relatively soon.
“It will take a little while for our inventories to be built but I don’t think we are facing an existential threat,” he said.
Several area stations have reported outages but the situation changes as deliveries have been made throughout the day.
As the supply chain recovers, Hamblen County’s leaders urged conservation, not hoarding. They offered the following suggestions to conserve fuel.
• Limit trips
• Work from home if possible
• Don’t leave your vehicle running
• Companies with large fleets, consider conservation strategies
• Refrain from hoarding fuel
“There is fuel being transported to the market from other areas to help alleviate the temporary problem,” the county said in a statement. “If we work together as a community to conserve fuel, we can help mitigate a potential outage.”
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm stressed the issue is not a supply problem.
“We know that we have gasoline; we just have to get it to the right places,” she said.
S&P’s Oil Price Information Service put the number of gas stations encountering shortages at more than 1,000.
“A lot of that is because they’re selling three or four times as much gasoline that they normally sell in a given day, because people do panic,” said Tom Kloza, an analyst with S&P. “It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The pipeline runs from the Texas Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan area. The states most dependent on the pipeline include Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas, Kloza said.
In Virginia, 7.7% of the state’s nearly 3,900 gas stations reported running out of fuel Tuesday, according to Gasbuddy.com, which tracks supply. In North Carolina, 8.5% of almost 5,400 stations were out, the company said.
There were scattered reports of higher gasoline prices, but prices were rising even before the pipeline incident heading into the busy summer driving season. Nevertheless, Granholm warned gas station owners, “We will have no tolerance for price gouging.”
To ease brief shortages, the White House is considering temporarily waiving a law that says ships delivering products between U.S. ports must be built and manned by Americans.
Even as the supply chain issue is resolved, the larger issue of the vulnerability of the nation’s infrastructure remains.
As he filled his tank in Morristown last night, Ray Hannah said the government is failing at its job.
“The government’s supposed to have all these top notch people to protect us- and they’re not doing it,” he said.