Lack of back up options following Colonial Pipeline explosion could raise gas prices

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(WDBJ7) The Colonial pipeline explosion in Alabama will almost certainly impact wallets at the pumps soon in Virginia.

Photo: Alabaster Fire Dept./MGN

But how could an incident so far away cause issues for us?

Dr. Carol Bienstock, a professor at Radford University said it's because of how much gas that pipeline is responsible for, right?

She said the Colonial Pipeline is responsible for 40% of all petroleum up the east coast.

And with one of their pipelines down again they're not going to be able to get as much gas out, which would mean less revenue unless they raise their prices.

For the second time in just as many months a Colonial pipeline in Alabama isn't running following an explosion on Monday.

Dr. Bienstock said, "I think it will probably be a very similar situation in terms of the capacity lost in the supply chain. We can hope it's not any worse, right?"

In September, following another pipeline issue, some areas in Virginia saw gas prices rise 30 to 40 cents per gallon.

Now, we may have to prepare for that again.

Motorcyclist Paul Hirsch said, "I'm getting pretty good gas mileage and my wife's car gets pretty good gas mileage too. I think it will be alright. We all have to be willing to sacrifice a little bit to help others out."

The reason, Bienstock said, is there aren't many backup plans for transporting all that gas.

One option could be using the rest of Colonial's network of pipelines.

"I'm sure they do have quite a few other pipelines," Bienstock said. "Maybe some of them are carrying diesel and if the demand for gasoline is larger they'll probably rededicate those pipelines and put gas through them, at least temporarily."

Other plans would be trucks, trains, or ships from the Gulf. But can they really be used?

"It's mainly a matter of capacity," Bienstock said. "18-wheeler tankers, that's a possibility, but those probably already have jobs. The rail cars, same thing."

Bienstock couldn't predict if or when we'll see the gas prices rise, but it hasn't happened yet.

Triple A said about average prices in Virginia, they were one cent lower on Wednesday than Tuesday and four cents lower per gallon than this time last month.