Gov. Bill Haslam declared a state of emergency Friday to address the supply of gasoline to Tennessee, and analysts are warning that Tennessee drivers could see higher fuel prices in the coming days. This follows the closure of a major pipeline that runs through the state.
The Colonial Pipeline, which runs from the Gulf Coast to North Carolina, transports millions of gallons of gasoline every day, including to Tennessee. But the line shut down Sept. 9 when a leak was discovered in Alabama, according to the company.
This means gas stations in Tennessee have had to get their supply in other ways. They have relatively easy access to alternatives, says Patrick DeHaan, a senior analyst at GasBuddy.com: There's an oil refinery in Memphis and some in the Midwest. The situation is more dire for states like South Carolina, which don't have many other sources of gas, he says.
So DeHaan predicts that gas stations in Tennessee are less likely to have fuel outages — but, he says, that prices could rise 5 to 15 cents per gallon. One person tweeted at him on Friday that a gas station in Clarksville went up 30 cents overnight.
"You shouldn't necessarily be running out [of gas]. You'll just encounter higher prices as supply declines," DeHaan says.
But, he says, he does not want people to panic.
"If everyone were to run out there, everyone would run out of gasoline. Not only that, but prices would go through the roof. A lot of the severity of the issue is in the hands of motorists," DeHaan says. "If people curb their plans temporarily, it will mean prices go down faster, and it will mean more stations have fuel availability.
(A second analyst from GasBuddy.com told WPLN there's another risk of broadcasting specific predictions: Some gas stations might bump up their prices even if they're not low on fuel.)
This ordeal could be alleviated soon, however. The Colonial company said in a statement Friday that it expects to restart the pipeline next week.
Some Changes Already
On Friday, Haslam issued a state of emergency that allows petroleum drivers to work longer hours, in order to transport more fuel to gas stations.
He said in a statement that the change is "a precautionary measure, as we are not currently seeing any widespread unavailability of petroleum in Tennessee."
But the closure is already affecting some stations in the state. An employee at a Shell station in Columbia told WPLN that it was out of gas for about two hours Friday morning until a new shipment came in. GasBuddy.com reported that the average price per gallon in Tennessee rose 2 cents from Thursday to Friday.
This story is ongoing and will be updated with changes.