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AAA addresses fuel availability during pipeline shutdown

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 12:15 PM EDT
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(WDBJ/AAA Release) - AAA forecasts gas prices in Virginia to climb this week in reaction to the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of all fuel to the East Coast.

Over the weekend, the Colonial Pipeline announced it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack and, as a precaution, shut down the pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York Harbor. AAA says some lateral lines have reopened, but there is no word when the mainline, including the gasoline line, will be operational.

“This shutdown will have implications on both gasoline supply and prices, but the impact will vary regionally. Areas including Mississippi, Tennessee and the east coast from Georgia into Delaware are most likely to experience limited fuel availability and price increases, as early as this week,” said Morgan Dean, AAA spokesperson. “These states may see prices increase three to seven cents this week.”

The longer the pipeline is offline, the larger the impact on the east coast, according to AAA. However, foreign gasoline imports and other pipelines can supplement Northeastern supply.

Other areas are expected to see little impact.

For the week, the national gas price average jumped six cents to $2.96. If the trend continues, says AAA, an increase of three more cents would make the national average the most expensive since November 2014, the last time we saw average prices at $2.99 and higher. Virginia’s average ($2.76) jumped three cents on the week and five cents over last month.

AAA says while there is sufficient gasoline supply in the U.S., other pipelines and the Department of Transportation’s temporary hours-of-service exemption for tanker trucks transporting gasoline and other fuels will be able to ease the strain, but not resolve the issues caused by the pipeline interruption. Once the pipeline is up and running, there could still be residual delays as it takes 15–18 days for fuel to flow from Texas to New York.

AAA urges against panic-buying of gasoline, and offers these tips:

  • Plan ahead to accomplish multiple errands in one trip, and whenever possible avoid high-traffic times of day.
  • If you own more than one car, use the most fuel-efficient model that meets the needs of any given journey.
  • Remove unnecessary and bulky items from your car. Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use. It takes more fuel to accelerate a heavier car, and the reduction in fuel economy is greater for small cars than for larger models.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning. Even at highway speeds, open windows have less effect on fuel economy than the engine power required to operate the air conditioning compressor.
  • In hot weather, park in the shade or use a windshield sunscreen to lessen heat buildup inside the car. This reduces the need for air conditioning (and thus fuel) to cool down the car.

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