CHARLOTTE, N.C. — We’ve seen images of gas station after gas station empty. It's happening in the Carolinas as well as up and down the east coast. WCNC Charlotte went to the experts to find out -- is this just due to the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack?
Our sources are Jim Iuorio, an oil expert with TJM Institutional Services, Patrick De Haan, a petroleum analyst with GasBuddy and Tiffany Wright with AAA of the Carolinas.
Wright said what we are seeing right now is similar to the panic buying of toilet paper we saw last year at the beginning of the pandemic.
"We are our own worst enemy," Wright said. "When it comes to these things, we talk about the bread and the milk and people going out during the pandemic, it was the toilet paper. It’s a knee-jerk reaction we go and we panic and we overconsume. We don’t want to think that our family is going to be without something. We don’t want to think that we’re gonna be without gas."
Iuorio added that the timing is also hitting as the world is opening up more and the summer driving season is right around the corner.
"The world's opening up and the demand is steadily, every day increasing," Wright said.
"One element that should not be ignored is that consumers are used to gas stations being quick to raise prices on supply disruptions," Iuorio said in a statement.
Iuorio added gas stations weren’t prepared for the demand and just need time to get resupplied.
De Haan said demand for gas is up 32% in some locations compared to last Monday.
"It's hard to call it a shortage," Wright said. "Shortages, they’re so sporadic and a big reason for that is because everyone is going out and they’re overconsuming and they’re panic buying."
So we can confirm the initial gas shortage is due to panic buying -- not solely the cyberattack that caused the pipeline to shut down.
Restarting the Colonial Pipeline is critical. According to energy analysts, if a partial restart of the pipeline begins by Wednesday, there will be no significant or lasting impacts. If the shutdown lasts past Wednesday, spot shortages will start to take place in parts of the Southeast.
If the shutdown lasts into next week, we could see significant fuel shortages in the interior southeast of the United States.
WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions by finding a resource for residents who don't want to drive all around town, trying to find which stations have gas and which don't. If you absolutely need to get gas, try using this Gas Buddy Tracker to find out where the shortages are. Just search for your zip code and it will list which stations have fuel.
If you spot a fuel line or a gas station running short of fuel, snap a photo and send it to WCNC Charlotte. You can upload the image to our newsroom using the Near Me function on the WCNC Charlotte mobile app, or by texting 704-329-3600.