Nearly 70% of gasoline stations throughout North Carolina’s largest metropolitan regions are out of fuel as gasoline shortages caused by the Colonial Pipeline hack continue to roil the East Coast.
Data compiled by GasBuddy, a Boston-based technology firm that analyses real-time fuel prices across the country, found almost 30% of North Carolina’s fueling stations had run dry on Tuesday.
The problem was exacerbated in the station’s major metropolitan regions, including Charlotte, Raleigh and Asheville. In the Charlotte area, for instance, more than 70% of fueling stations had run out of gasoline or only had limited options available. Meanwhile, in the Asheville region, the figure stood at 78%.
North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, issued a state of emergency earlier this week to address the crisis. Mr. Cooper laid the blame for the shortages partially on fear, arguing that people were rushing to fill up their gasoline tanks even if they were not in need.
“Please don’t buy gas unless you’re low, and report any cases of price-gouging,” the governor said. “We will continue our efforts to help make sure there is an adequate supply of fuel.”
Although North Carolina has been the hardest hit, it’s by no means the only state impacted. In South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia, nearly 20% of all fueling stations have run out of gasoline.
The crisis is the result of a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s largest pipeline refinery system, that has crippled the company’s ability to deliver gasoline and other forms of energy.
The impact has been felt disproportionately in the mid-Atlantic and South. When in operation, Colonial Pipeline carries more than three billion barrels of fuel daily between the Gulf Coast to the harbor of New York. It’s responsible for delivering 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast.
Colonial Pipeline’s inability to transport gasoline, combined with spiking demand caused by fear, has led to long lines at the pump. In some states, like Virginia and Georgia, wait times exceed more than an hour.
The Biden administration and local governments have responded to the crisis by mobilizing resources to expand the supply of gasoline available.
The Environmental Protection Agency, in particular, has waived certain regulations, including those on vapor pressure, to bolster the supply of gasoline in Pennsylvania and the D.C. metropolitan region.
Similarly, the Department of Transportation has authorized the states most impacted to transport “overweight loads” of gasoline to fueling stations.
We are not taking any chances,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We are doing everything we can in the interim to be able to move fuel to the places that need it.”
Experts, though, are not sold that the crisis will resolve until Colonial Pipeline is back in full operation. Some, in particular, point to the fact that the Southeast does not have other alternatives for fuel transportation outside of Colonial Pipeline’s system.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm hinted as much on Tuesday during a White House press briefing.
“The crunch is in the areas that are affected by the pipeline — the main spurs of the pipeline,” Ms. Granholm said. “So, that really is the Southeast … and because of the fact that there’s not a whole lot of other supply … that’s where we’re going to see the crunch.”
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