By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Last week’s cyberattack against the major East Coast oil pipeline set up circumstances that could potentially create fuel shortages. At mid-week, about 1,000 stations reported “out of gas” situations. What’s being done to help drivers along the East Coast get that precious motivator back in their tanks? And are the fuel outages really the fault of the pipeline shutdown?
A drop in the bucket
For many RVers, Pilot Flying J travel centers figure predominantly in their refueling picture. At midweek, the company’s management put out a notice regarding the situation and its effects on their brand. Gasoline demand across the Southeast is up, but “diesel is holding steady in most areas,” the company reports. While most of their locations do have diesel, a few do not. At mid-week, six stations had diesel, but not gas; two had no fuel whatsoever; and five were out of diesel. However, of the five, three were expecting deliveries that day.
From that perspective, that’s not much more than a “drop in the bucket” when one considers how many of the big fuel corporation’s stops there are in the affected area. So what about these “1,000 stations out of fuel”? The numbers may paint a picture of what’s really happening.
Stock market number cruncher Standard & Poor’s has its own section dedicated to watching all things petroleum. While they’re the ones who put out the “1,000 stations out” report, their familiarity with numbers points a finger: “A lot of that is because they’re [gas stations are] selling three or four times as much gasoline that they normally sell in a given day, because people do panic.” This, according to S&P analyst Tom Kloza. “It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
So, apparently much of the fuel shortage isn’t really because of the pipeline shutdown but, rather, the perception of drivers and their knee-jerk reaction to it. Photos of drivers lining up and filling up multiple gas cans, or standing in pickup truck beds pumping gas into barrels, have become widespread in the media. Uncle Sam reminds folks to take a breath and don’t fuel hoard.
The pipeline is largely running already
In actuality, on Monday a goodly chunk of the vast pipeline had already been turned back on. How? The computers are still down, but that doesn’t prevent guys with muscles and wrenches from physically going out and turning the thing back on. Colonial Pipeline says pretty much all of the pipeline should be flushing fluids by the end of this week. This information provided by Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. Energy Secretary.
Already the feds had eased back on fuel tanker driving restrictions, allowing drivers the ability to drive longer hours to be able to route fuel over the highway system. Train companies have been pressed into service to bring tanker loads via rail.
Georgia, hang onto your receipts
With good intentions by government can also come the usual tail-twisting. In Georgia, state officials declared that fuel stations should stop collecting motor fuel and diesel taxes for the time being. Sounded like a great thing to Georgia drivers. But neighboring states weren’t too keen on the idea, and have started charging excise tax on fuel that travels through their states on the way to Georgia. Pilot Flying J says if you buy fuel in Georgia, you should keep your receipts until the matter is resolved.
RVers traveling in the South can only hope locals will take to heart the admonition to not fuel hog. If they do, with the other measures in place, hopefully travelers will be able to skate through this latest fuelish frustration without too much trouble.