Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday evening declared a gasoline-related state of emergency, including activating the Florida National Guard “as needed.”
Florida is not likely to experience significant gas shortages stemming from a cyberattack that has temporarily shut down the Colonial Pipeline since Friday.
Officials of AAA – The Auto Club Group say that’s largely because most of Florida doesn’t gets its gasoline from the pipeline, which is the country’s largest.
AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins on Tuesday said he has some reports of service stations running out of gasoline in the Pensacola, Tallahassee and Tampa areas. He said he has not heard of issues along the Space Coast.
Jenkins said the supply issue at certain stations is more the result of panic-buying by motorists who may be concerned about shortages, so they are topping off their fuel tanks and filling up empty gas cans as backup.
Jenkins said, in some areas, gasoline sales are two or three times the normal level. “Concern about supplies is causing a panic in the market,” Jenkins said. In a statement, AAA said Florida is not largely dependent on the Colonial Pipeline for gasoline.
Most of Florida’s fuel is delivered from Gulf Coast refineries via waterborne vessels. For example, Port Canaveral is among the Florida ports that regularly receive petroleum supplies.
Because of this, AAA said, “Florida should remain well-supplied with gasoline, despite the pipeline outage.”
The Colonial Pipeline carries gasoline and diesel from refineries in Texas, supplying states with fuel across the southeastern United States and up the eastern seaboard to the New York harbor.
“My advice is don’t panic-buy,” Jenkins said. “Florida has plenty of gasoline.” However, pump prices remain vulnerable to futures price swings, which are influenced by domestic and international supply and demand. “The longer the pipeline is down, the greater the threat of rising gas prices,” Jenkins said.
At last word, the operators of the Colonial Pipeline hope to restart by the end of this week.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried said there could be some issues in the western Panhandle because of the pipeline disruption; a shortage of truck drivers in the fuel and agriculture industries; and terminal issues in the Pensacola area.
Fried addressed the issues in a short social media video, urging people not to panic and rush to the pump. “Don’t hoard gas and don’t form long lines at gas stations,” she said. “Fuel is continuing to move around our state.”
Jenkins said the average price of regular unleaded gasoline in Florida is $2.877 a gallon, up about 10 cents last week, largely on expectations of a strengthening economy. But Jenkins said the Colonial Pipeline shutdown itself has not affected the futures prices of fuel so far.
According to AAA, the average price of regular unleaded gas in Brevard County was $2.855 a gallon on Tuesday, up from $2.791 a week ago. It was $1.799 a year ago.
In effort to ease supply concerns, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a temporary “hours of service” exemption that applies to tanker trucks transporting gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products. The exemption is something commonly seen after a hurricane or other natural disaster.
It applies to Florida and 17 other states.
Gov. Ron DeSantis briefly addressed the pipeline shutdown and subsequent gas shortages at a bill-signing in Jacksonville for a school choice bill.
He said the state was “relaxing restrictions” that will allow trucks to more speedily refuel impacted parts of north Florida, but he placed the blame clearly on the federal government.
DeSantis said this was “essentially a cyberattack on critical infrastructure in our country.”
“I think this is something that demands serious federal attention,” he said. “You can’t just say it’s a private pipeline. … The U.S. government needs to be involved. We need the federal government to step up and help.”