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Gas shortage in Nevada? No need to panic, experts say

The cyberattack that prompted the shutdown of the East Coast’s largest fuel pipeline is unlikely to have any effect on Southern Nevada gasoline products, experts say.

Colonial Pipeline, the operator of a 5,500-mile gasoline conduit that transports 2.5 million barrels of fuel a day, was hit with a ransomware attack last weekend that paralyzed operations. The company, which supplies 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supply, said Wednesday that it is resuming operations after a multiday shutdown.

The gas outage has led to a run on gas across several Southeastern states as prices topped $3 a gallon for the first time in several years.

Experts say the Colonial Pipeline situation won’t have any effect here.

Las Vegas receives most of its fuel products from California through the CalNev Pipeline with a smaller portion coming from Utah through the UNEV pipeline, AAA Nevada spokesman Sergio Avila said.

“AAA wants to remind motorists there is an ample amount of gasoline in the region,” he said.

Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner agrees. He said there were reports of panic-buying across parts of the country.

“Outside of the Southeast, I really think that the impact is fairly minimal,” he said Wednesday. “Unless there’s some disruption to energy infrastructure outside of the Colonial Pipeline, I really don’t expect there to be any problems of gasoline in other parts of the country.”

Chevron, a major fuel provider across the valley, ran out of some or all gas products at several of its Southern Nevada retail locations for a day or so in April.

Some spot gas shortages are also possible in the valley with a shortage of a tank trunk drivers. Resupplying stations during a busy weekend could put a strain on gas distribution.

The national average for regular gas surpassed $3 a gallon for the first time since 2016, according to AAA, though Nevadans have been paying that for several months.

And that doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon.

Avila said AAA expects gas prices to rise as we approach Memorial Day.

“Although gas prices seem high at the moment, compared to what we saw in 2020, the average cost of gasoline on May 12, 2019, was $3.50 a gallon, just a nickel less than the current average,” he said.

As of Wednesday, Las Vegans are paying an average of $3.575 per gallon on regular fuel, according to AAA tracking data. It’s up from $3.365 a month ago and $2.399 a year ago.

It’s also unlikely that gasoline prices will reach $4 a gallon this summer, analysts say, barring a few factors, including refinery troubles and pent-up demand.

The demand for gasoline has increased as states relax COVID-19 restrictions and welcome tourists back.

“There is a seasonal demand for gasoline as people tend to drive more,” Vitner added. “People have things to do after work, and there’s just more driving, and then you also have the summer vacation season with people traveling.”

Contact Jonathan Ng at jng@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ByJonathanNg on Twitter.

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