Stop hoarding! South Florida is not in a gas shortage

Panic buying will only create a problem, experts say

The Colonial Pipeline shutdown doesn't affect South Florida's fuel supply, although people unnecessarily hoarding gas could, experts and local leaders say.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Scenes of people lining up at gas pumps have been spotted in many places.

However, in South Florida, we do not currently have a gas shortage.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Tuesday in response to gas shortages that have been caused by the shutdown of a major pipeline after a cyberattack.

Shortages have been reported in northern Florida, but the Colonial Pipeline that was attacked doesn’t bring gas to us here in South Florida, and DeSantis and local leaders are urging drivers not to unnecessarily hoard gas.

“Look if you need gas, get it,” DeSantis said. “But you don’t need to be hoarding it right now, that’s going to make it worse.”

In fact, the reason you may see your local gas station running out of gasoline is because of lines of people panicking and loading up on gas like you would before a hurricane.

Sky 10 spotted massive lines Wednesday morning at three gas stations near the intersection of Southwest 152nd Street and 137th Avenue in Miami-Dade, with cars curling around the building.

Long lines have been spotted at many gas stations but the panic buying is not necessary because South Florida doesn't receive its fuel from the pipeline that was hacked.

“It’s likely that motorists are seeing reports about supply issues in other states — due to the pipeline — and are racing out to top off their tanks,” said Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for the American Automobile Association. “The problem is, that surge in demand is what actually creates the supply issue, since gas stations can only hold so much fuel at a given time.”

In South Florida, our fuel comes into our ports on ships and then is trucked to the gas stations. Jenkins said 90% of Florida’s gasoline flows in through our ports on cargo ships.

“This is not a refinery issue. Gasoline is still being made and fuel continues sailing through Florida ports, regardless of whether Colonial Pipeline is operational,” Jenkins said. “Florida is said to have access to plenty of gasoline. It’s now just a matter of getting the fuel where it’s needed, primarily those gas stations that are being tapped out due to panic buying.”

The Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline carries gasoline and diesel from refineries in Texas across the southeastern United States and up the eastern seaboard. It began restarting its operations Wednesday afternoon.

Map shows the Colonial Pipeline Company's system. (Courtesy of AAA)

Port Everglades, where most of our gas comes in, says “our fuel supply has not been impacted by the Colonial Pipeline ransomware incident. Schedule for inbound fuel ships looks strong. We are monitoring the possibility that ships may be diverted to assist other regions, but [South Florida] supply is expected to remain consistent.”

In an interview Wednesday, port director Jonathan Daniels added: “While we are monitoring it, and certainly we’re monitoring it, we’re at our typical levels right now in regards to the inventory. ... Ultimately we’re comfortable in what we’re seeing right now.”

If people panic and rush to get gas or hoard it, however, then gas stations could run out — not because they don’t have ample supply, but because people are filling up more than they normally would.

The advice for South Florida residents is to fuel up as you need to, but not to hoard more than you would normally use.

“Stay calm. Do not rush out to the gas stations to buy gas. Only if you rush and hoard will we have a problem,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said. “If we continue with our normal activities we’ll be just fine because our gas comes in through Port Everglades, not through the pipeline.”

Residents should also keep an eye on any businesses looking to exploit the pipeline news by jacking up gas prices.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced Wednesday that, with the state of emergency declared by the governor, her price gouging hotline is open.

To report a suspected case of price gouging, you can email Complaints should include the business name, address, item(s) believed to be price-gouged with photos and receipt(s) and contact information. Residents may also call 305-547-3300.

“Now that the Governor has declared a state of emergency, price gouging is a criminal offense. We are joining efforts with the Miami-Dade Police Department to combat any greedy individuals and businesses that may use threatening events like the cyberattack on the fuel pipeline to take advantage of our community’s fundamental needs by unnecessarily hiking prices to outrageous levels,” Fernandez Rundle said in a news release. “Greedy actions will not be tolerated before, during, or after any event wherein a state of emergency has been declared.”

According to AAA data, Florida gas prices have not risen significantly since the Colonial Pipeline outage was reported Friday. Drivers in the state are paying an average of $2.89 per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline on Wednesday, which is two cents higher than at this time last week.

About the Authors:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.