An oil pipeline leak in Alabama is about to affect the entire East Coast.
If you drive a car, you may want to fill up your tank sooner rather than later.
A major pipeline that serves 13 states on the East Coast has been closed after a massive spill was discovered on Sept. 9, 2016.
Repair efforts were delayed by bad weather, and experts are now saying that the pipeline has been closed long enough that it will start punching consumers right in the wallet.
“We’re starting to see the dominoes fall where this will become an issue that will affect motorists’ wallets for sure,” said Patrick DeHaan a petroleum analyst at GasBuddy. “It could become not only a wallet issue but a fuel availability issue.”
The Colonial Pipeline delivers about 40% of the gas used on the East Coast of the United States.
Many states have already taken steps to prevent a chaotic gas shortage freakout.
Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama have waived rules that limit how many hours truck drivers can travel so they can speed up fuel deliveries.
On Sept. 14, hoping not to disrupt fuel transport, the EPA ended a Clean Air Act summer requirement for cleaner gas two days early for 13 counties in Georgia and five counties in Tennessee.
And Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency in Shelby County after the gas spill.
So yeah. Things aren't looking great. But don't get too worried.
For the most part, gas consumers on the East Coast will see a price spike and not much else. Repair efforts are underway at the pipeline and (hopefully) everything will be back up and running normally before long.
The truly fascinating thing about this story is that it highlights just how powerful fossil fuels are in our economy.
Even if you set aside their harmful environmental effects (which you shouldn't), watching our economy bend and shape itself with every change in gas availability is alarming.
This outage has already driven gas futures up 5%, which is only the third time this summer that they've gone up that much.
And honestly, I have no idea what gas futures are, but the effect of gasoline on the economy is pretty stunning.
As the prices rise and fall, there's a huge impact on the wallets of everyday people — and when that price can be affected so greatly by something like an accidental spill, it puts our economy and livelihoods in a weirdly fragile place. It gets weirder when you remember that the majority of the gas we use comes from overseas.
Loosening our dependence on fossil fuels could help ease crises like this in the future. Imagine if more drivers on the East Coast had electric cars. *Thinking face emoji*
For now, East Coasters will just have to wait it out.
The pipe will be fixed, the spill will get cleaned up, and eventually everything will return to normal.
The real question is: How much longer will we let fossil fuels push us around?