Drivers waited in long lines at gas stations in the Southeast on Wednesday after a hack of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline led to distribution problems and panic-buying, draining supplies at thousands of gas stations.
There is no gasoline shortage, according to government officials and energy analysts. But there is a problem getting the fuel from refineries on the Gulf Coast to the states that need it, and officials are scrambling to find alternate routes to deliver that fuel.
In Georgia, much of the state was dealing with gas shortages. On Wednesday afternoon, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp held a news conference, saying the most effective way to address the shortage is to remain calm and only buy the gas needed for essential activities.
It’s important to note that in Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida, there hasn’t been any notable spike in fuel prices, but that hasn’t stopped people from buying and stocking up.
In Northeast Florida, lines of vehicles and trailers plagued gas stations, several of which were down to just fumes for much of Wednesday. According to officials, this problem was created not by the pipeline shutdown but the panic-buying. Pipeline operations restarted late Wednesday.
Some drivers were stockpiling fuel into individual tanks. At the Costco on Collins Road, there was a limit on how much fuel buyers can put into spare tanks.
The Shell gas station at San Pablo Road and Beach Boulevard on Jacksonville’s Southside was up and running again Wednesday after running out.
The manager of the gas station told News4Jax they ran out of gas because they had so much demand Tuesday. He said they ordered what they normally do and thought they’d get a shipment that would carry them through, but more people came to buy gas, so they ran out.
It was about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday when a tanker came to supply the gas station. Up until then, the gas station was only able to offer premium gas from one pump and diesel from another, causing a steady line of people waiting for the pump to open up.
News4Jax also spoke with several people who said they tried other stations first, so when saw even one open, they were relieved.
“My wife went to the Daily’s there right near us and all the pumps were covered. I called over here, and they said we just have premium, so she got in line and called me and said get over here,” said Matt Meshnick, who was filling up his car at the Shell station.
“I decided I’d come over here. The lines weren’t too bad, but they were slow, and I don’t have any choice. It’s my wife’s car, and she still has a little bit of gas, but I turn it off as I’m waiting here,” said Bill Monteith, who was also filling up his car there.
So far in Florida, just 2% of gas stations have run out of fuel. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in response to gasoline shortages.
And while there were lines at that Shell gas station, it was kind of an anomaly. This was certainly not the case at most gas stations around town.
A map from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that pumps in Jacksonville are not supplied by the Colonial Pipeline -- but through JaxPort, where lines of fuel trucks formed to refill their payload. Trucks were making runs between the port and local gas stations, delivering unleaded and diesel -- which are in high demand right now.
Ned Bowman, with the Florida Petroleum Marketing Association, said the challenge isn’t how much fuel is in the system right now -- but where.
“There is plenty of fuel in the system. It’s just reallocating it. So we’re reallocating out of Jacksonville reallocating out of Tampa,” Bowman said.
Restrictions on load limits for fuel tankers were also relaxed to speed the delivery. Kemp also suspended Georgia’s fuel tax in response to the shortage across the state.
News4Jax got word in Clay County that several gas stations in Fleming Island were out of fuel Wednesday.