Panic Buying of Gas Seen Hundreds of Miles From U.S. East Coast

The gasoline panic-buying in the U.S. that’s been triggered by the recent pipeline outage has spread to at least one corner of the country ostensibly well-supplied with fuel.

Residents of Brownsville, McAllen and other cities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas rushed to local gas stations Wednesday. Social media posts showed long lines for fuel in the border communities that echoed scenes witnessed during past hurricanes and the deadly freeze that gripped Texas in February.

The rush to fill up was almost certainly unnecessary. The region is hundreds of miles away from areas affected by the loss flows on Colonial Pipeline, which as of Wednesday evening had restarted following an earlier ransomware attack.

Some residents turned to social media to voice their frustrations.

“Waited in line for 20 minutes to get gas after seeing every station in McAllen is out,” said Amy Sullivan, news director, CBS 4 News and KVEO, on Twitter. “This ISN’T necessary.”

Gasoline inventories in the Gulf Coast region are estimated at 85 million barrels, or roughly 3.5 billion gallons, well above the five-year average, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

But despite plentiful supplies, Rio Grande Valley residents are buying gasoline faster than tanker truck companies can refill storage tanks at gas stations, according to the Gas Buddy Outage Tracker.

“There’s no shortage of fuel but there’s a shortage of drivers,” said Alfonso Arguindegui, chief executive officer of Laredo-based tanker truck company Arguindegui Oil, which serves industrial customers and gas stations in South Texas.

Motorist advocacy group AAA and government officials asked the public to remain calm and maintain normal fuel-buying habits.

“It is important to know there is ample gas supply in the United States,” AAA said in a statement. “It is just a matter of getting deliveries to stations to meet demand.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission asked people not to fill plastic bags with gasoline following reports that some buyers were doing just that.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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