Stop panicking over gas, Charlotte

Stop panicking over gas, Charlotte

(Photo by Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images)

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This story was last updated May 11 at 4:58pm to include an update from the city of Charlotte.

Gas prices are climbing around Charlotte amid a surge in demand following the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline. But as was the case last year with toilet paper and hand sanitizer: There’s no need to panic buy. Doing so only exacerbates supply issues.

Zoom out: Over the weekend, a ransomware attack of the Colonial Pipeline caused it to temporarily close down its network. The pipeline runs from Texas to New York and delivers approximately 45% of all fuel to the East Coast, per AAA.

  • Energy researcher Amy Myers Jaffe told Axios’ Dan Primack that Colonial “is like the gasoline jugular of the United States.”

Over the last week, the national gas price average jumped six cents to $2.96, according to AAA. A quick trip through NoDa, Villa Heights and Plaza Midwood showed stations selling gas from anywhere between $2.85 and $2.99 per gallon.

  • At one Exxon station on The Plaza, lines of cars formed out to the street as people waited to fill up. On North Tryon, there were no lines at all at a Shell station.
  • At area Costcos, lines snaked around the parking lot. Some drivers waited anywhere from 25 minutes to over an hour at the Tyvola Costco, which was selling unleaded for $2.44 a gallon Tuesday.
  • The city of Charlotte is asking staff “to limit non-essential travel as a precautionary measure.”

“At this time, we urge the public to remain patient and avoid buying unnecessary fuel supplies,” a statement from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management Office read.

Yes, but: The shutdown likely will prove to be “more of an inconvenience,” Jaffe told Axios’ Primack. This time of year, the industry tends to carry a lot of inventory ahead of Memorial Day, when summer travel picks up. There may be some local gas stations without much extra inventory, which may lead to shortages and limits on how much customers can purchase.

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  • “Let’s not forget we can truck gasoline from one location to another,” Jaffe added.

On Monday, Gov. Cooper issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency to suspend motor vehicle regulations. This is a way to allow trucks to transport fuel more easily. Cooper said that he and federal energy officials have a “full court press” to get the Colonial Pipeline back up running.

“Report price gouging and please don’t rush to top off your tanks,” Cooper tweeted.

  • You can report price gouging to the state by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filling out a form online.
  • The pipeline’s operator said the hope is to fully restore operations by the end of the week, the New York Times reported.

Richard Joswick, head of global oil analytics at S&P Global Platts, said the fact that there is no imminent shortfall means there’s no need to rush out now to fill up your tank, WCNC reported.

  • It only turns into a problem if this drags on for weeks, he told the station. “You’d wind up with price spikes and probably some service stations getting low on supply. And panic buying just makes it worse.”

No lines at the Shell on Matheson and North Tryon (Photo: Katie Peralta/Axios)

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