Travel Alert: Sporadic Fuel Shortages in Southeastern United States Until Further Notice

Gasoline fuel pump handle

If you are traveling anywhere in the southeastern United States by car or other vehicle which uses gasoline, be aware that fuel prices have been spiking due to shortages caused by a leaking main pipeline in Alabama which led to its complete shutdown — resulting in states of emergencies to be declared by the governors of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee due to a significant disruption of shipments of fuel.

Sporadic Fuel Shortages in Southeastern United States

In addition to the aforementioned states, the fuels supplies in South Carolina — typically one of the states with the lowest fuel prices in the United States — and North Carolina have also been affected.

Fuel prices in the Atlanta area have increased by approximately 25 cents within the past week as a result; and they may rise further before that main pipeline — which is owned by Colonial Pipeline — is repaired. In addition to the sporadic shortages, part of the significant increase in the price or a gallon of gasoline in such a short period of time has artificially resulted due to a mild panic by motorists of vehicles lined up at fuel stations…

…and that panic has led to the prices at some fuel stations increasing dramatically — and in at least one case, the price of gasoline has literally more than doubled.

Price Gouging

Some fuel stations were suspected of the practice of price gouging: “It’s price-gouging. Taking advantage of the situation. It’s the only place that’s got (gas) in our area and we’re on empty,” one motorist said in frustration according to this article written by Tyisha Fernandes and Steve Gehlbach of WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta. “After several complaints about a station in Dallas charging $4.59 for regular gas, an employee says the owner dropped the prices back down.” Dallas is a small city in Paulding County in the state of Georgia which is located slightly greater than 30 miles northwest of Atlanta.

Although a law against price gouging is currently in effect in the state of North Carolina, no such law exists during the current state of emergency in Georgia, which allows for the temporary suspension of limits on the hours drivers of fuel trucks are permuted to work so that the shortage of fuel is mitigated. While they may be considered morally reprehensible, the significant price increases at some fuel stations in Georgia are technically not illegal.


Despite that as much as 336,000 gallons of gasoline may have already leaked from the pipeline, the panic demonstrated by some motorists is completely unnecessary and only exacerbating the fuel shortage problem. A second pipeline — also owned by Colonial Pipeline which is ordinarily used for other fuels such as diesel — is currently being used temporarily to transport gasoline; so do not be surprised to see diesel and other fuels rise significantly in price as well.

Although initial reports cited that the main pipeline will be repaired within the next week or so, construction of a temporary pipeline which will bypass the leaking section of the main gasoline pipeline has reportedly commenced — but there is no official definitive timeline given for when supplies of gasoline will once again be replenished and back to normal; nor is when the leak first occurred known.

Until then — if you are traveling to the southeastern United States and plan on renting a car; or if you are driving your own vehicle — ensure that you are not being scammed by either the rental car company or any fuel station on the price of gasoline. Refer to an Internet web site such as GasBuddy to check on the price of a gallon of gasoline in the area in which you plan to drive to keep yourself updated — and be aware that some fuel stations may be closed or out of gasoline; so be sure that you have enough gasoline in your fuel tank to get you to where you need to go.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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