There is a lot of gasoline this summer.
However, getting to gas stations may be a different story.
Just as the summer driving season begins after a year when most families were stuck at home, there have been reports of some gas pumps running out of fuel for short periods.
The problem is the shortage of tanker truck drivers to transport fuel from storage stations to stations.
“We have enough gas. It’s just a matter of getting the gas where it needs to go,” said Kimberly Schwind, a spokeswoman for Ohio AAA. The Columbus metro area has seen some of this fuel shortage.
She said she expects there will be problems all summer.
It’s intermittent. It’s going to be temporary,” Schwind said.
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Immediate shortages have appeared in several places across the country, including the Florida Keys, central Iowa, Washington, Oregon and Colorado, according to the Oil Price Information Service.
So far, this hasn’t been a big deal, said Tom Kluza, global head of energy analysis for the service.
“Most of the outages were short enough that motorists considered the lack of availability to be a nuisance or an inconvenience rather than a crisis,” he said.
Schwind said that when gasoline consumption fell a year ago as the economy was largely shut down due to COVID-19, tankers were parked, and many drivers retired or went to work elsewhere.
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Now that fuel demand is back, more drivers are needed to fully supply the stations, she said.
The important thing, she said, is that drivers don’t panic and fill up before they normally do.
This is what happened during the Colonial Pipeline ransomware episode that halted the distribution of gasoline across the Southeast and East Coast last month, exacerbating an already difficult situation.
Gasoline demand is expected to continue rising during the summer as the economy reopens and families head out onto the road for long-awaited vacations.
Demand averages about 9.1 million barrels per day nationally, Opis said, citing federal energy data. That could rise to 9.6 million, or 9.7 million, in July and August, meaning an additional 2,600 to 3,150 tankers would be needed on the road to move gasoline from bulk stations to terminals.
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All of this comes with oil prices once again rising above $70 a barrel. This helped raise gasoline costs. A gallon of regular gas averaged $3.10 on Monday, up from $3.07 the previous week and $2.18 a year ago, according to the AAA Fuel Supply Scale.
“The allowance that can really put pressure on the system comes through unanticipated consumer behavior,” Kloza said. “When the colonial pipeline was shut down, consumers even 500 to 1,000 miles away felt compelled to dump the tanks, in a hysterical reaction to a territorial problem.”
Follow Mark Williams on Twitter @BizMarkWilliams