Florida gas prices level for now, as panic buyers create artificial fuel demand
Lines down the street and gas pumps sheathed in yellow bags: from all appearances, Florida is experiencing a fuel shortage.
But contrary to first glance, the state is well supplied with fuel, according to The Auto Club Group [AAA]. Panic buying is real driver of the Sunshine State’s not-so-sunshiney shortage, as the east coast grapples with the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.
The Colonial Pipeline, which is responsible for 45% of the east coast’s fuel supply, was cyber-attacked by a Russian criminal group called DarkSide on Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigations confirmed on Monday. In order to mitigate the attack on the company’s technology systems, Colonial Pipeline took certain systems offline. The company is expected to announce a restart plan soon and previously pledged to resume operations by the end of this week.
But where does that leave Florida, which by all geographical indicators is on the east coast? According to AAA, 90% of the state’s fuel arrives through ports on cargo ships. Regardless of that comforting fact, sales in the southeastern US are reportedly 2-3 times higher than normal.
What is most concerning about panic buying is its cyclical nature. The more people buy, the more runs out, the more people rush to the pumps in fear of a shortage. Wash, rinse, repeat.
“It’s likely that motorists are seeing reports about supply issues in other states – due to the pipeline – and are racing out to top off their tanks,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said. “The problem is, that surge in demand is what actually creates the supply issue, since gas stations can only hold so much fuel at a given time.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis passed an emergency order on Tuesday to help satisfy demand in Florida. The order enables fuel trucks to carry more gasoline [between 500 and 1,000 gallons more] and spend more time on the roads making deliveries. Additionally, the EPA granted a waiver that strengthens Florida’s fuel access, by allowing the sale of both winter and summer blend gasoline, AAA reported.
The only aspect of the pipeline shutdown that should really concern Floridians are prices. Earlier this week AAA projected potential price swings if the pipeline remains closed for too long. So far, Florida has not felt the brunt price-wise of increased demand, with a small 2 cent increase since last week at $2.89. The average price of gas as of Wednesday was $2.91, which is 3 cents less than this year’s highest price recorded in late March, according to AAA.
“AAA urges drivers to be calm and not make matters worse by hoarding,” Jenkins said. “Please continue with normal fueling patterns and take only what you need.”
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