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Fried Pleads For Calm: 'There Will Not Be Any Shortages' Of Gas In Florida

An image of gasoline prices at a gas pump.
Gasoline prices are displayed at a filling station in Philadelphia.

Only one region of the state is impacted by the Colonial Pipeline hack. That hasn't stopped a mad dash to fill up tanks across the state. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is calling for calm.

A ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline has led to gas shortages across much of the American South.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Tuesday in regards to a potential gas shortage. Following that move, a consumer panic has taken hold, with people rushing gas stations and filling up massive tanks of gas.

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Some officials say the sense of panic is misplaced, since the vast majority of fuel coming into Florida comes through sea ports — not through the impacted pipeline.

"In South Florida because we're served by a different supply chain and a different location and we're not subject to the situation with the pipeline, there's not a need to feel that panic," said Jonathan Daniels, the CEO and port director at Port Everglades in Broward County — the state's largest sea port hub for energy. "If you didn't know there was an emergency order, if you didn't know there was a pipeline shutdown — you're looking at it and saying 'you know what, it's a pretty normal day.'"

 Drivers in cars wait for gas at a gas station in southwest Miami-Dade County.
Catalina Garcia
Drivers wait for gas at a gas station in southwest Miami-Dade County.

In truth, only one region of the state is impacted by the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline. And it is nowhere near South Florida.

WLRN's Daniel Rivero spoke with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried Wednesday about the panic at the pump and why some Floridians should calm down a bit.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state regulator of gas stations and fuel distribution throughout the state.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

WLRN: This is one of the cases where there's a North Florida and then there's a South Florida, and here in South Florida, we know most of our gas does come by sea. But people are panicking. There's a lot of gas stations that have run out of gas. So I'm just wondering, from your perspective, how are how are you guys dealing with that?

FRIED: First and foremost, you're correct that there is a North Florida and South Florida when it comes to the Colonial Pipeline cyber attack, which is causing the panic across the country.

We've been in contact with the White House, and so we know that that pipeline will be back up and running by the end of the week. Here's the big picture that everybody needs to hear and to understand: We get a majority of our fuel from — not from this pipeline. The pipeline would only have impacted at the very minimum, just North Florida.

When it comes to South Florida, we get our fuel basically from all of our ports. That's Jacksonville and Miami and Tampa and Pensacola.

So we will not have any shortages here in the state and I really want to emphasize to consumers, please, please, please do not panic.

Buy gas, don't hoard the gas, don't form long lines at our gas stations. Fuel is continuing to move throughout the state of Florida and there is no reason to pile up and to stay on the lines. This only disrupts individuals who actually need the gas.

To to that point. Gov. DeSantis did declare a state of emergency. People were worried about it before he declared it. But should people take that perspective into account — that most of our gas does come by sea, not through the pipeline?

I obviously don't speak to the governor about his executive orders. I do think that that was probably an inappropriate executive order, considering that there is no shortage and all it's going to do is cause panic across our state.

So I'm telling you, I am telling the people of our state and our consumers — we have gas. There will not be any shortages. We are able to pull down from federal resources that we've got. All of our gas that comes into much of our state is from our ports.

The pipeline incident will not impact the state of Florida. And again, we did an emergency order last night to just guarantee that there would not be a shortage. And again, this pipeline is going to come back online this week, so there's no need to panic.

I did talk to someone at Port Everglades. They said there is no shortage. They're not anticipating a shortage, but they are monitoring the situation to see if any fuel that would be coming in to Port Everglades, for example, might be redirected to somewhere else in the Gulf, like Alabama, Mississippi, et cetera. Is that something you guys are aware of or that you're monitoring?

Of course, we're going to continue to monitor the entire situation and I think that the way that our consumers can help with this is by not hoarding gas. That is the only way that we're going to create a situation and run out is if, in fact, people are not listening and they actually try to hoard the gas and try to fill up and do the red tanks and fill up the red tanks.

This will be a self-inflicted shortage if people don't get the message to stay your normal course of business, fill up your gas tanks when you're empty or near empty. No reason to go and gas and stand and wait and see long lines.

What happened with the pipeline, it was a hack. Obviously the the fuel that we have coming into the ports, it comes to multiple different points. Is there any chance of a hack like that happening [elsewhere], or is it just a completely different thing that we're talking about?

It's a different thing, it's totally different.

But this is exactly why I asked the governor to have a Cabinet meeting on cybersecurity preparations, because you saw some additional, we saw, a cybersecurity attack on Oldsmar Water Plant a couple of months ago. And this would have been extremely dangerous if, in fact, it wasn't caught early on.

That's why I've asked for this Cabinet meeting. I've talked to our League of Cities, talk to our Association of Counties for everybody to be updating all of their preparations. We can't keep kicking the can down the road. We've got to fix this.

And everybody, all of our government agencies, all of our water supply sources, really all of our public utilities really need to make sure that their cyber security is up to speed and up to date and that they are doing whatever preparations necessary to protect their companies.