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Panic buying could result in gas shortage

This as a result of the Colonial Pipeline hacking.
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 4:56 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Drivers along the East Coast face a combination of gas shortages and long lines as the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline entered its fifth day. More than one thousand gas stations ran out of gasoline, but energy officials say panic buying is primarily driving the gas shortages.

Locally, drivers may see a jump in the price of gasoline, but they won’t be hit hard like other states.

Associate Director for Tulane University’s Energy Institute Eric Smith said Louisiana drivers may be better off compared to other parts of the country.

“As long as we get this solved within a week, we’re probably ok,” said Smith adding that the Colonial Pipeline is a major pipeline system that runs through the Southeast up to New Jersey and supplies about half of the fuel that is used in the upper Northeast Atlantic seaboard.

But for Louisiana, Smith said the shutdown of the pipeline shouldn’t be a problem for many across the state.

“We’ve got so much refining capacity in the state and we’re a major exporter for the rest of the country, so we’ve got plenty of fuel available locally,” he said. “What you are seeing, however, is some strain from what we call ‘panic buying’.”

Which he said may be why some gas stations are selling out of gas or experiencing those long lines.

Smith said the Colonial Pipeline is a dual pipeline carrying other commodities like jet fuel. He said the longer the pipeline stays offline, impacts could become greater-- reaching airlines and other means of travel like trucking and shipping.

Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy said the attack just shows the vulnerability of U.S. businesses and the energy industry.

“When you don’t have adequate supplies of energy, what happens to an economy? And so I also think this is a wake-up call that we shouldn’t take our energy independence for granted,” said Cassidy.

Cassidy said he’s supportive of severe criminal charges against the hackers as well as a need for more protection on energy independence.

“Now it’s a gas pipeline, but it could also be an electrical grid running to homes with all the impacts that would have on health, on the economy, you name it.”

Back in Louisiana, drivers may be paying more for gas and might experience a shortage at some gas stations as fuel may need to be delivered to other areas in need.

“The main issue is of course to get the pipeline itself back up and running and I don’t see any problems doing that as long as they’re careful,” said Smith.

Smith said at the earliest the pipeline could be back up and running completely by early next week, adding that starting up the pipeline takes time and must be done slowly in steps.

Until then, drivers could see gas prices continue to rise.

According to GasBuddy, Louisiana has one of the lowest prices per gallon on average at around $2.50 to nearly $3.00 per gallon.

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