Young Americans may be shocked by the unbelievably long lines at gasoline pumps that customers from Texas to the Northeast and now in the southeast have suddenly experienced. The shortage in supply, recently explained by experts as a result of fewer truck drivers on the roads due to the ongoing pandemic, had already resulted in gas prices rising.
But following news of a recent cyberattack, allegedly pulled off by Russian operatives who disabled computer systems that direct fuel production in our region, prices have risen even more causing anxious motorists to line up in droves to fill their tanks.
Of course, if you were around during the ’70s, it’s more like déjà vu – been there, done that. But that hasn’t alleviated the growing fears of Americans who have just begun to see the easing of restrictions that have been enforced for well over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the record, gas prices today have reached levels not seen in the past seven years. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
In just a matter of days, Memorial Day weekend will be here — that time of the year when Americans normally pack up the children, fill up the gas tanks and head out on the highways for fun and relaxation.
According to officials from AAA, after over a year of being stuck at home, it’s predicted that more than 34 million Americans will be heading over the river and through the woods – perhaps not to grandmother’s house – but somewhere, anywhere.
Several stats have already declared a state of emergency over potential gas shortages including Georgia, North Carolina and in nearby Virginia where on Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam issued an emergency declaration “to prepare and coordinate our response to the voluntary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline due to a cyberattack.”
But even in states including South Carolina and Florida, officials have taken extreme measures to ensure that gas remains available and that residents both stay calm and refrain from hoarding gasoline needlessly.
Colonial Pipeline operates a 5,500-mile system taking fuel from the refineries of the Gulf Coast to the New York metro area and transports more than 100 million gallons a day, or roughly 45% of fuel consumed on the East Coast, according to the company’s website. It delivers gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and heating oil and serves U.S. military facilities.
Still, everyone seems to be facing pain at the pump. The national average for gas prices jumped 6 cents on the week to $2.96 with those in the know predicting costs to rise even higher.
An increase of three more cents would make the national average the most expensive since November 2014, when average gas prices were $2.99 and higher. Meanwhile, AAA said the top 10 largest weekly increases in the U.S. include: Michigan (up 15 cents), Kentucky (12 cents), Florida (10 cents), Delaware (10 cents), Indiana (10 cents), West Virginia (9 cents), Utah (9 cents), Texas (9 cents), New Jersey (8 cents) and Pennsylvania (7 cents).
Comments on the Crisis from Customers in the DMV
Cheryl Porter, Alexandria: “While I don’t have to drive to work, I do have errands to run. The increase in prices bothers me because I budget my money and I have to dig deeper for gas. I don’t know how long this will last but I hope it ends soon.”
Cinque Culver, a resident of the River Terrace neighborhood in the District’s Ward 7: “Our government leaders should take action to bring down gas prices. Rising gas prices influence the costs of driving and traveling by plane. A gas shortage will put a strain on our economy so people just have to make it the best way they can.”
Maryland Del. Jazz Lewis (D-District 24): “Many people still have to commute to work. The rising gas prices also affect people who ride Metrorail and Metrobus. Metro hasn’t gotten back to pre-pandemic levels yet even though things are beginning to open back up. This is a concern and we are looking into what we can do to help Marylanders during this time. However, this may be the shot in the arm we need to look at using electric cars more.”
WI staff writer James Wright contributed to this report.