DURHAM, N.C.—The ’70s are back in the Southeast.
No, it’s not a Republican candidate for president promising law and order. It’s not the latest bellbottom revival. It’s not even the North Carolina-centered movement of Grateful Dead-inspired musicians.
Instead, drivers across the region are lining up at gas stations, hoping to fill up their cars. A gas shortage began September 9, when a mining inspector noticed a gasoline odor in Shelby County, Alabama. Colonial Pipeline discovered that there was a leak in a line that runs from Houston up to New Jersey. More than 300,000 gallons leaked from the line. Somewhat miraculously, the spill seems to have avoided the worst ecological damage, because much of the gas ended up in a retaining pond.
But while the pipeline is being repaired, there are gas shortages in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam declared a state of emergency on Friday. The governors of Georgia and North Carolina loosened rules on truckers’ hours to try to make it easier to move gasoline in. The major effect hasn’t been so much on prices, though those are up. In Tennessee, per-gallon prices were going up around 5 cents to 15 cents, though in some cases as much as 30 cents. Prices jumped 31 cents on average in Atlanta. In North Carolina, prices also surged, but the state’s anti-gouging law is holding down the increase, as it did in Georgia. What’s striking is that even with the spikes, many prices are still below $2.50—the magical, and at the time unthinkable, number below which Newt Gingrich promised to bring prices, when he was running for president in 2012.