ATLANTA — Georgians rushing to gas stations to fill their tanks are worsening fuel shortages that began after a cyberattack shut down the Colonial Pipeline, Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday.
“Only get the gasoline you need,” Kemp urged motorists during a mid-afternoon news conference at the state Capitol. “Please do not go out and fill up every 5-gallon tank you have. Doing so will only mean the shortage will last longer.”
The 5,500-mile pipeline that supplies almost half of the gasoline on the East Coast shut down last Friday after a ransomware attack that has been traced to hackers operating out of Russia or Eastern Europe.
Colonial officials are working to get the pipeline back into service by the end of this week. Meanwhile, panicking motorists have been lining up at gas stations to fill their tanks, causing many stations in Georgia to run out of fuel.
According to Gasbuddy.com, a technology firm that tracks real-time fuel prices across the country, 43% of stations in Georgia were out of gas. There were no reports that any stations in Bulloch County had run out of gas as of Wednesday afternoon, but there were lines at several local stations, including Parker’s on Highway 80 East, next to Lowe’s.
Gasoline prices in Georgia have jumped 13 cents since Monday and with pump prices on the rise, Kemp signed an executive order Tuesday suspending the collection of the state gasoline tax.
Georgia collects a gasoline tax of 28.7 cents a gallon and a diesel tax of 32.2 cents a gallon. The tax is collected by distributors and paid to the state. The order also lifts the usual weight limits on fuel delivery trucks.
In a move to increase supplies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the state’s request to allow the sale of a blend of gasoline normally sold only during winter months. The state has a supply of winter-blend fuel in storage.
“We’re going to have this new product flowing quickly,” said state Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, whose agency oversees fuel quality control in Georgia.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said his office has received more than 300 complaints of price gouging. The governor’s executive order prohibits price gouging, although pump prices have been edging higher during the last few days due to the higher costs of shipping fuel with the pipeline out of service.
“No one should be taking advantage of consumers trying to pursue their daily activities,” Carr said.
Issues across Southeast
Drivers waited in long lines at gas stations in the Southeast as panic buying has drained supplies at thousands of gas stations.
If the pipeline shutdown extends past the weekend, it could create broader fuel disruptions. The pipeline runs from the Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan region, but states in the Southeast are more reliant on the pipeline.
“What you’re feeling is not a lack of supply or a supply issue. What we have is a transportation issue,” said Jeanette McGee, spokeswoman for the AAA auto club. “There is ample supply to fuel the United States for the summer, but what we’re having an issue with is getting it to those gas stations because the pipeline is down.”
In North Carolina, 65% of gas stations were out of fuel, according to Gasbuddy.com. In Virginia, 44% of stations were out, and in South Carolina, 16% had no fuel.
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline ticked above $3 for the first time since 2016 Wednesday, according to the AAA. Prices begin to rise around this time every year and the auto club said Wednesday that the average price hit $3.008 nationally.