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AAA Tells North Florida: Stop Panic Buying Amid Localized Fuel Shortages

An out-of-order gas pump with a bag over the handle
Lynn Hatter
Stations across Tallahassee are running out of gas amid rumors of a gas shortage due to the cyber attack on a major pipeline

Only about 4% of Florida’s gas stations are without fuel, but in North Florida, the figures are far higher. According to Patrick De Haan, head of Petroleum analysis for the fuel-finder app Gas Buddy, 73% of Pensacola stations, 44% of Tallahassee stations and 15% of Gainesville stations are out of fuel. “Rest of FL looking good,” De Haans tweeted Wednesday morning.

The regional outages are being caused by people panic-buying in the wake of a cyber attack on a major East Coast pipeline that supplies more than 45% of the region’s fuel. While most of Florida gets its gas through shipping and ports, there’s a Colonial Pipeline distributor in Bainbridge, GA which supplies several stations in Tallahassee. The hack itself is not the cause of the shortages, says AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. The problem stems from people flocking to gas stations to top off their tanks.

“Stop it. Remain calm. Florida has plenty of access to gasoline. We are not reliant on the Colonial Pipeline for our fuel,” Jenkins said in a video statement released to media outlets. “Ninety percent of the gasoline here in Florida sails in on cargo ships through our ports. When people race out to the port and they top off their tanks and fill up extra cans, all that does is create a supply problem.”

The crisis in North Florida began emerging Monday, days after Colonial Pipeline operators shut down the pipeline in response to the cyberattack. Monday afternoon, Florida Agriculture Nikki Fried issued a statement trying to calm concerns about shortages and noting Florida has plenty of fuel.

Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an emergency order waiving weight and travel rules for fuel tankers.

“Now, we’re relaxing restrictions in terms of the weight to get more fuel trucks into the parts of Florida that need more fuel, but ultimately we need the federal government to step up and help. We don’t want to see these long gas lines to persist throughout the northern part of our state,” DeSantis said.

The federal government has issued a waiver allowing the sale of a winter-blend of fuel that’s out-of-compliance with clean air standards, to be transported and sold in efforts to mitigate the growing shortage of gasoline in North Florida.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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