gasoline pump handle
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Pipeline Explosion May Cause Possible Fuel Shortages and Higher Gasoline Prices Throughout the Southeastern United States — Again?!?

t least seven workers — and possibly as many as nine people — were severely burned when a gasoline pipeline exploded in Shelby County in Alabama earlier this afternoon, causing people within three miles of the incident to be evacuated.

Both pipelines in that area were completely shut down — raising fears of a repeat of sporadic fuel shortages experienced last month in several states in the southeastern United States.

Pipeline Explosion May Cause Possible Fuel Shortages and Higher Gasoline Prices Throughout the Southeastern United States — Again?!?

The explosion occurred on the same pipeline — which is owned by Colonial Pipeline — on which a leak was discovered last month. In fact, the explosion occurred in Helena approximately one mile west from the site of that leak — from which greater than 336,000 gallons of gasoline leaked — which caused fuel prices to spike at least 25 cents in a minimum of five states in the southeastern United States because of sporadic gasoline shortages caused by a complete shutdown of the pipeline as a result of that leak. States of emergency were declared by the governors of several states due to a significant disruption of shipments of fuel.

In addition to the expected sporadic shortages, part of the significant increase in the price or a gallon of gasoline in such a short period of time is expected to be caused by a mild panic by motorists of vehicles lined up at fuel stations, which occurred last month…

…and that panic 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; and as has happened last time, isolated price gouging is expected to occur.

Expect the governors of states from Alabama to North Carolina to declare states of emergency once again.

Exceptional Drought Conditions Not Helping

According to the Alabama Forestry Commission, the explosion sparked three wildfires — which is only worse news, as that area of Alabama is experiencing extreme drought conditions from virtually no rain over the last two months. The fuel is being allowed to continue to burn as the situation is contained and being closely monitored; and at least 31 acres have already been scorched.

No appreciable amounts of rain is in the immediate weather forecast; and temperatures have been significantly higher than normal, which is expected to continue for the next few days — exacerbating the exceptional drought conditions which could inhibit firefighting efforts.

Exceptional is considered the worst stage of drought — even worse than extreme.


“A temporary flight restriction is in effect, the Alabama Emergency Management Agency announced on Twitter just before 8 p.m.”, according to this article from WBMA-TV News in Birmingham. “Only ‘relief aircraft’ will be allowed in the airspace above the blast site.”

There is no confirmation at this time as to what caused the explosion of the pipeline; nor an official definitive timeline given as to when this situation will be completely resolved or how supplies of gasoline will be affected in the southeastern United States.

Until this situation is indeed resolved, if you are traveling to, in or from the southeastern United States and plan on renting a car which uses gasoline — or if you are driving your own vehicle — over the next few weeks, expect the worst: be certain that you are not being subjected to artificially inflated pricing of gasoline by either the rental car company or any fuel station. Keep yourself updated with Internet web sites such as GasBuddy to check on the latest price of a gallon of gasoline in the area in which you plan to drive.

Also, establish that you are more prepared than usual and have enough gasoline in your fuel tank to get you to where you need to go, as some fuel stations may be closed or out of gasoline.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.


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