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The gas shortage may ruin my trip this week -- and it could ruin yours, too

May 11, 2021
5 min read
The gas shortage may ruin my trip this week -- and it could ruin yours, too
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It's road trip time in the Sloan household. Or, at least, it was until yesterday.

That's when the panic about gas supplies began setting in around my hometown -- Weaverville, North Carolina. First, the Ingles station ran out. Then the Shell station. By afternoon, the few gas outlets in the area that still had supplies had lines 50 cars deep.

Now it's all gone.

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Thanks to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, there is no gas in Weaverville and, from what I hear, not much down the road in Asheville, either. And there are developing gas shortages in several other Southeastern states including Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina, according to industry watchers such as oil analyst Patrick De Haan of GasBuddy.

Unless things improve in the next 72 hours, my road trip -- a 695-mile journey northward to New York City for my daughter's graduation on Monday from Fordham University -- could be ruined. And, if you're scheduled for a road trip in this part of the country in the coming days, your trip could be in jeopardy, too.

Industry watchers such as De Haan are urging Americans not to panic about gas shortages -- and not to panic-buy gas, which just adds to the problem by reducing supplies at the pump in the short term. Most stations still have gas, they note, and those that don't will get new supplies soon.

But the issue for me and for many would-be road trippers on the East Coast this week is whether we can be sure or not that we'll be able to fill up during our journeys. We don't want to get a few hundred miles away from home and find ourselves in one of the pockets of the country (such as my little corner of North Carolina) that doesn't have a single gallon of fuel available.

The 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline, which carries fuel from Texas to several Southeastern states and then up to New Jersey, supplies nearly half of the fuel supply for the entire East Coast -- a not-insignificant sum.

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The pipeline has been shut down since Friday, due to a cyberattack.

Even travelers with upcoming flights to or from the area could be affected. American Airlines, for example, has had to adjust some of its long-haul flights out of Charlotte (CLT) to refuel.

Extra stops: American Airlines is adding refueling stops to some flights as fuel pipeline hack chokes supplies

If the pipeline stays down in the coming days, there's the risk that at least some stations along my journey would find themselves out of fuel. Would they all be out of fuel? Unlikely, seems to be the word from experts. But how much can we bet on that before hitting the road?

Right now, the issue is moot for me. My Toyota RAV4 has just a sliver of fuel in it, enough to go just 60 miles according to the dashboard display. Until gas returns to Weaverville -- a mountain town in Western North Carolina not far from the Tennessee border -- my world has shrunk.

Earlier today, I had a 75-mile range on my RAV4. But I burned 15 miles of that range searching in vain in several directions for a station that didn't have an "out of fuel" sign out front or bags over its pumps.

The town of Weaverville has temporarily run out of gas, and my Toyota RAV4 has enough fuel left to make it just 60 miles. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

I am down a mountain road that's a couple of miles away from even the closest gas station, and I'm now thinking strategically about how I will approach the next few days. I will make another foray down to civilization tomorrow to see if gas trucks have arrived with salvation. But I only have enough fuel to do that a few times.

Luckily, I work remotely from home for TPG (where I normally write about cruising). I have plenty of food in the fridge. The satellite internet remains strong. I will be just fine until the pipeline comes back online and fuel begins flowing to this region again.

The company that operates the Colonial Pipeline has said it could restart a substantial portion of the pipeline by the end of this week. And, even if it isn't able to get the pipeline back online quickly, some fuel can be brought to the Southeast by truck and rail, industry watchers say.

But, until that happens, my road trip this weekend remains in doubt.

Featured image by Cars lined up at gas stations in Weaverville, North Carolina, on Tuesday as gas supplies dwindled. The town's gas stations were all out of gas as of Wednesday morning. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

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  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.