President Joe Biden said Friday that his administration is pushing to boost gasoline deliveries to regions badly impacted by Hurricane Ida, where flooding, road closures, and downed power lines have led to gas shortages, leaving residents scrambling to find fuel for generators.
Biden said at a Friday press briefing in LaPlace, Louisiana, that measures to boost fuel supplies include dipping into the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to enable refiners in the region to access the crude they need to continue operations, while providing flexibility for truck drivers to ramp up gasoline deliveries.
“We’re moving quickly to keep gas flowing to the pumps,” Biden said. At his direction, the Department of Energy has authorized the strategic reserve to conduct an exchange of 1.5 million barrels of crude oil with ExxonMobil Baton Rouge to address supply disruptions.
Biden also noted greater flexibility for how many hours truckers are legally allowed to drive and transport gasoline, adding, “we need more movement of this fuel. And we’re expanding the supply of gasoline that can be sold in the state of Louisiana.”
“And there’s much to be done. We’re working around the clock with the governor and the elected officials here until we can meet every need you all have,” Biden said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a briefing Thursday that the Department of Transportation had provided new flexibilities for truckers to enable them to deliver fuel, while the IRS had waived the penalty for the use of dyed-diesel fuel on highways in affected regions “in order to expand availability of diesel for use on Louisiana roads at a critical time for response and recovery efforts.”
Storm-battered Louisiana residents and area businesses, who have endured almost a week without electricity, are having trouble finding generators or fuel to power them, making it difficult for residents to cool their homes after the hurricane.
Ida’s severe winds knocked out power to more than one million homes and businesses. Unlike other recent fuel crunches, such as the ransomware attack that forced the Colonial Pipeline to shut in May, supply is not the only problem. Many gas stations are without power, keeping them from operating, and making it harder for residents to fill vehicles and generators.
As of Saturday morning, nearly three-quarters of stations were without fuel in Baton Rouge, and over two-thirds of stations stood empty in New Orleans, the most populous city in the state, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.com.
In New Orleans, Aaron Lowe, 49, lined up on Thursday at a fuel station to wait for gasoline for the third straight day. He said he and many others braced for the storm by getting a generator but finding gasoline has been difficult.
“I had to wait about 40 minutes (today),” said Lowe, a construction worker. “I was waiting between two and four hours in the last couple of days.”
The American Automobile Association said in a statement that, “within Louisiana and Mississippi, many areas are still without power and experiencing flooding and road closures. As power is being slowly restored, AAA urges motorists in the affected area that if they do not need to fill-up, don’t.”
“There is ample gasoline supply in the U.S.; any constriction is just a matter of fuel trucks being able to access open roads as flooding dries out and power is restored,” the AAA wrote.
Reuters contributed to this report.