STATEWIDE — Gasoline-industry officials said Tuesday they expect minimal but possibly deeper short-term effects on Tampa Bay and Central Florida gas prices from the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline.
What You Need To Know
- Gov. Ron DeSantis declares state of emergency over disruption of Colonial Pipeline operations
- Trade group official: Gas prices could increase by a "few pennies" in Central Florida, Tampa Bay
- Gas distributor official: An increase of "10, 15 cents is possible" if shutdown lasts longer than Friday
- SUSPECT PRICE GOUGING? Call the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226
- RELATED: Officials say pipeline attack has created 'supply crunch' but ask people not to hoard
That’s because neither region depends on the pipeline for gasoline.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis late Tuesday issued an executive order that, among other things, invokes compacts and agreements with other states to coordinate the allocation of resources to help Florida best "meet this emergency." It also orders activation of the National Guard, as needed. DeSantis noted in his executive order that "the disruption of Colonial Pipeline operations poses a significant and immediate threat to the continued delivery of such fuel products to the State of Florida and many other states located in the Eastern United States."
The effects of the pipeline outage appear to more directly affect northern Florida, including Jacksonville, which officials said gets its fuel trucked in from Georgia — among the states directly affected by the outage.
Ned Bowman, executive director of the Tallahassee-based Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, said Central Florida and Tampa Bay residents could see gas prices increase by “a few pennies” because of the effect of the pipeline shutdown on prices at the New York Mercantile Exchange.
“But overall, the prices down that way should be stable,” Bowman said.
Yet Summit Shah, president of Cocoa-based Southeast Petro Distributors, said an increase of “10, 15 cents is possible” if the shutdown continues past Friday. He cited, among other things, the possibly of some gasoline earmarked for the Port of Tampa getting diverted to the East Coast, which the Colonial Pipeline serves.
Shah also said some gas stations are seeing panic buying, which he said drives outages at stations already affected by a reported shortage of tanker drivers. Pinellas County, for example, saw outages at some stations Tuesday, and reports of outages in Seminole County appeared on Tuesday night.
“There shouldn't be panic-buying in Florida, because none of our fuel comes from the Colonial Pipeline,” Shah said. “But we are seeing to some degree that people are concerned that, ‘Hey, the fuel is going to run out,’ and now they're filling up their cars a little sooner, kind of like they do in hurricanes.”
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Tampa, Central Florida get gas from Port of Tampa
Colonial Pipeline officials shut down operations last week after a cyberattack from a group known as DarkSide. The company has said it aims for a restart of its main pipeline by the end of the week, and industry officials are watching closely because the pipeline transports a reported 45% of the East Coast’s gasoline.
That reportedly has prompted residents from Georgia northward to scramble to fill their tanks and brace for price spikes.
The shutdown doesn’t affect Tampa Bay because the region’s gasoline gets shipped to the Port of Tampa from refineries on the western and northern Gulf Coast. Gasoline from the port gets trucked as far south as Fort Myers and almost as far north as Chiefland, Bowman said.
The pipeline shutdown also doesn’t affect the Orlando area because that region benefits from a pipeline that extends from Tampa.
Yet gasoline prices statewide already have been rising. They climbed 10 cents last week in response to increases in the oil and gasoline futures markets, and the average price stood Sunday at $2.88 a gallon, the American Automobile Association said.
AAA reported West Palm Beach-Boca Raton ($2.99) as the most expensive market and The Villages ($2.83) and Orlando ($2.84) as among the least-expensive markets.
On Tuesday, gas sold for $2.90 a gallon at two stations outside of downtown Orlando. Spectrum News also spotted prices as low as $2.83 in Winter Park.
Orlando resident Richard Lowry gassed up Tuesday at a Winter Park Wawa. He said he wasn’t worried about high gas prices.
“We’ve seen gas at $3.50, almost $4, before,” he said.
But the cyberattack on a gasoline pipeline got him thinking about similar threats.
“What else can they impact?” he asked. “Is the electric grid next? I think we’re ill-prepared for them.”
In Pinellas County, the sign at a Rally Station in the beachy South Pasadena area pegged the price of regular unleaded gas at nearly $2.80 per gallon.
“It’s the highest it’s been in quite some time,” said Krissy Fennell, a cashier at the station.
Fennell said customers haven’t been complaining much about rising prices. Early Tuesday, there weren’t any complaints at all about prices, because there wasn’t any gas. Every pump was dry.
“We’ve been out of gas since about 11 o’clock this morning,” Fennell said.
She expected a truck to refill the station’s underground tank around mid-afternoon.
“We’re not worried about not getting gas,” Fennell said. “But this is definitely unusual because we’re a very high-volume store for gas. Our pumps are normally full at this time, and pretty much all day.”
It was unclear whether the outage at the South Pasadena station was related to the panic buying or driver shortage that Shah mentioned.
It also was unclear whether Tampa Bay and Central Florida residents had experienced any price-gouging.
Industry officials said they don’t expect any of that in Florida.
“I think … the increase they're going to see is just the fact that the costs have gone up,” Shah said. “I think the gas stations do a pretty good job of policing themselves. The state's watching, so I don’t think (residents) should expect that.”
The website of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody states suspicious consumers should note the grade of gas and price per gallon and call the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226. Residents also can report violations at http://myfloridalegal.com.
Bowman, of the Florida Petroleum Marketers Association, said member companies are aware of the laws regarding price gouging and that a lawyer is present for all association phone calls.
“And there is no talk of any type of pricing, market share breakup or any of that,” he said.
Spectrum News reporter Trevor Pettiford contributed to this report.
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