A growing number of gas stations along the East Coast are without fuel as nervous drivers aggressively fill up their tanks following a ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline, a critical artery for gasoline. The panic-buying threatens to exacerbate the supply shock.
As of 4 pm ET Tuesday, 8.5% of gas stations in North Carolina and 7.7% in Virginia didn't have gasoline, according to outage figures reported by GasBuddy, an app that tracks fuel prices and demand. The Virginia figure was flat from 11 am ET, while North Carolina was up from 5.8% previously.
Rising outages are also being reported at gas stations in Georgia (5.8%), Florida (2.8%) and South Carolina (3.5%), according to GasBuddy, which collects user reports and shares the information with the government during emergencies.
"Panicked buying" is "running stations in the region dry," Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told CNN Business.
He warned that the "irrational behavior" could prolong supply issues "for weeks."
Tiffany Wright of AAA Carolinas criticized what she described as "irresponsible behavior at the pump."
"People are taking their entire family fleet of vehicles to the gas station and filing up when they don't need to," Wright told CNN's Dianne Gallagher. "We are our own worst enemy in this situation because we are over-consuming at the pump."
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm pleaded with Americans not to hoard gas as the pipeline attempts to resume operations.
"Let me emphasize that much as there was no cause for say, hoarding toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, there should be no cause for hoarding gasoline," Granholm said during Tuesday's White House press briefing, "especially in light of the fact that the pipeline should be substantially operational by the end of this week and over the weekend."
Demand for information on gasoline availability is so intense that GasBuddy itself experienced outages. De Haan told CNN the platform is experiencing "slowdowns" because of "extreme traffic," so users may experience "periodic timeouts" on its website and app.
US gasoline demand jumped 20% on Monday compared with the prior week, according to GasBuddy.
In just five states served by Colonial Pipeline — Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia -- demand was up by a collective 40.1%, GasBuddy said.
"I got scared that I could not go to work or take my daughters to school," Florida resident Linderly Bedoya told CNN on Tuesday. "All the gas stations in my area were without gas and when I finally found one I had to stay an hour in line and I had to fill up with the premium unleaded."
So if you're a Republican governor, and you want to hurt this administration, what do you do? You declare a state of emergency, which immediately makes demand and shortages even worse.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency due to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown on Saturday, May 7.
According to the executive order, on May 7, Colonial Pipeline, a major US fuel pipeline operator, was the target of a cyberattack that disabled certain computer systems responsible for sustaining pipeline operations.
As a result of the incident, Colonial Pipeline was forced to temporarily halt pipeline operations in order to contain the attack.
Colonial Pipeline is responsible for transporting a "substantial percentage" of fuel on the East Coast of the United States, including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products, the executive order stated.
The closure of the pipeline poses a severe threat to the State of Florida and Gov. DeSantis said this requires immediate resources be taken to protect the continued delivery of fuel products to the state, the executive order read.
The executive order is to expire in 30 days from Tuesday, May 11, unless Gov. DeSantis extends it.