Some drivers are rushing to fill up their tanks this week after a pipeline exploded in Alabama, but employees at local gas stations say they’re not expecting a major gas shortage.
“We’ve had more customers, especially last night,” Bitesh Patel, an employee at a Mobil station on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, said Wednesday. He expects to see more customers than usual over the weekend, but the station’s supply has remained normal so far.
“I’m not worried that we will run out,” Patel said. “And we haven’t raised the prices.”
On Monday, the average price per gallon in Raleigh was $2.19, according to the website GasBuddy.com. On Wednesday, the average hovered near $2.20, a meager increase compared to September, when the average shot up from about $2.04 to nearly $2.23 in less than two weeks.
In early October, gas prices remained high, averaging nearly $2.26 per gallon, and had just begun a steady decrease into November.
AAA Carolinas warned earlier this week that gas prices are likely to rise. But AAA did not receive any reports of price increases overnight Tuesday, said public relations manager Tiffany Wright.
While some people are eager to fill up, North Carolina has not seen the droves of people who flocked to gas stations in September when a Colonial Pipeline sprung a leak in Alabama.
“We’re fine right now,” Wright said. “But that doesn’t mean we won’t wake up tomorrow with problems.”
Gov. Pat McCrory said Colonial Pipeline Line 1, which provides about 70 percent of North Carolina’s fuel supply, was shut down. On Tuesday, Colonial Pipeline said it expected the line to remain out of service for the rest of the week.
“Any glitch at all” in one of the state’s major pipelines slows the flow of fuel to North Carolina, said Randall Barker, an economics professor at East Carolina University. He said people should maintain their normal gas station habits and avoid storming the pumps.
“I don’t think the interruption will cause a shortage,” Barker said. “Go about your business. Life is going to go on.”
So far, at least, most drivers in the Triangle seem to be going about their business as usual.
Surag Khali, an employee at an Exxon on New Bern Avenue near North New Hope Road in Raleigh, said the station has had a few more customers, but it’s too soon to predict a shortage.
“I have to wait and see,” Khali said. “I’m not worried yet.”
But Sandekan Fogg, an employee at Valero Fast Mart on New Bern Avenue, said he’d seen a dramatic increase in customers.
“There’s been a high demand,” he said Wednesday. “I’m worried that next week we won’t have any gas.”
The Alabama explosion occurred Monday after a track hoe struck the pipeline, causing a fire and killing one worker and injuring five others, according to Colonial Pipeline. One of the five injured has been released, while the other four are still being treated.
A second line, Colonial Pipeline Line 2, which carries diesel, airline and heating fuel, was also shut down initially but restarted Monday.
To reduce the risk of a fuel shortage, McCrory has signed an executive order that temporarily suspends vehicle size and weight restrictions for trucks carrying gasoline and waives limits on the number of hours drivers of those trucks can be on the road.
Because the pipeline is down, it is likely that more fuel will be brought into the state on trucks.
McCrory also extended the state law against price gouging. Attorney General Roy Cooper urged consumers to report instances of price gouging, which state law defines as “a price that is unreasonably excessive under the circumstances.”
People can report suspected price gouging online at www.ncdog.gov or by calling 1-877-566-7226.
Meanwhile, Wright of AAA Carolinas urged drivers to avoid rushing to gas stations.
“If there was anything to learn from the September shortage,” she said, “it’s that motorists shouldn’t run out to the pumps.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler