TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If you’re wondering whether you should head to your nearest Tampa Bay gas station and stock up on as much fuel as you can, the answer is no, according to officials throughout the area. In fact, travel officials say that will only make things worse.
After a ransomware hack forced Colonial Pipeline to shut down late last week, concerns started growing about potential gas shortages. Colonial Pipeline is the source of nearly half the East Coast’s fuel supply. It restarted Wednesday night, according to the U.S. Energy Secretary.
But according to travel officials and agencies in the Tampa Bay area, there’s no need to fear a gas shortage locally. That’s because the Sunshine State really doesn’t rely too heavily on the Colonial Pipeline.
According to AAA, 90% of Florida’s gas supply comes in on cargo ships at the state’s many ports. Tanker trucks then deliver the gasoline to pumps across the state.
“This is not a refinery issue. Gasoline is still being made and fuel continues sailing through Florida ports, regardless of whether Colonial Pipeline is operational,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said.
The Highlands County Sheriff’s Office put out a PSA on Facebook Wednesday morning urging people to not participate in panic buying.
“The gas pipeline that was hacked does not supply gasoline to this part of Florida,” the post said.
While it’s true some stations in the Tampa Bay area have experienced temporary outages of gasoline, AAA officials say it’s the panic buying that’s to blame, not an actual shortage of gas.
“It’s likely that motorists are seeing reports about supply issues in other states – due to the pipeline – and are racing out to top off their tanks,” Jenkins said. “The problem is, that surge in demand is what actually creates the supply issue, since gas stations can only hold so much fuel at a given time.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Tuesday night as gas sales in the southeastern United States spiked to two or three times higher than normal. According to AAA, the emergency order allows fuel trucks to carry more gas and spend more time on the road to ensure stations stay supplied.
The bottom line, according to the AAA, is that there’s no need to stock up on more gas than you need.
“AAA urges drivers to be calm and not make matters worse by hoarding,” Jenkins said. “Please continue with normal fueling patterns and take only what you need.”
If your tank is empty and you need to fuel up, you can check the latest gas prices on GasBuddy.