Gas in the Charlotte area may be hard to come by this weekend because there’s no clear timetable of when fuel supplies will return to normal levels.
A ransomware attack on May 7 forced Colonial Pipeline Co. to temporarily shut down operations, which led to long lines and empty pumps as many panic-stricken drivers throughout the region sought to fill their tanks. Colonial restarted its system Wednesday afternoon.
On Thursday, the company said it had made “substantial progress” in restarting the pipeline but reiterated that it could take “several days” for supplies to return to normal.
As of Friday afternoon, 65% of North Carolina gas stations were out of fuel, 66.4% of stations in Charlotte were experiencing gas outages, GasBuddy.com energy analyst Patrick DeHaan said. Nationally, demand for gas is down 7 percent since last Thursday, he said.
“We’re seeing evidence that many filled their tanks and have enough fuel,” DeHaan said in a tweet Friday morning.
However, Charlotte’s gas prices continue to increase: Regular unleaded gas rose to $2.89, compared to $2.87 on Thursday, according to AAA. Nationally the average price of regular unleaded gas reached $3.04.
‘We will see normalcy’
“Have patience,” Tiffany Wright, director of public affairs for AAA Carolinas, wrote in an email to the Observer on Friday. “The Carolinas will continue to see limited fuel supply for the next few days. Refuel is on the way!”
There’s no need to fill up if drivers have gas that can support their needs for the next few days, Wright said, and drivers shouldn’t rush to the pump once they are refueled unless it’s necessary.
“Within the next week, we will see normalcy,” she said.
Price gouging in the Carolinas
North Carolina officials have received 843 price gouging complaints statewide as of Friday morning, including 81 in Mecklenburg County, 13 in Gaston County, and 10 in Union County, according to state Department of Justice spokeswoman Laura Brewer.
North Carolina’s price gouging law went into effect Tuesday to prevent gas stations from taking advantage of major gasoline outages related to the pipeline cyberattack.
The gouging law prohibits businesses from excessively raising prices amid a crisis, and it goes into effect when the governor declares a state of emergency.
Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on Monday.
Charlotte truck driver Clarissa Rankin made a TikTok video of herself paying $9.99 per gallon for $90 worth of mid-grade gas at an Exxon station on West Sugar Creek Road on Wednesday night. According to the state’s complaint data, $9.99 per gallon is highest recorded price hike that has been reported.
Drivers are encouraged to report suspected price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing an online complaint at ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/price-gouging.
CATS to resume fare collection
With fuel supplies expected to return to normal soon, the Charlotte Area Transit System will resume fare collection across the transit system on Monday, the transport operator announced Friday.
On Wednesday, CATS began offering fare-free rides to people who needed to go to essential workplaces during the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline.
Beginning next week, riders will need a valid pass, ticket or exact cash fare to ride, CATS said.
Ways to conserve fuel
AAA offers these tips on saving the gasoline that’s left in your tank:
▪ Plan ahead to accomplish multiple errands in one trip.
▪ If you own more than one car, use the most fuel-efficient model.
▪ Remove unnecessary and bulky items from your car. It takes more fuel to accelerate a heavier car.
▪ Minimize your use of air conditioning.
▪ In hot weather, park in the shade or use a windshield sunscreen to lessen heat buildup inside the car.