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Gas shortages hit the East Coast
Some gasoline distribution terminals from Virginia to Massachusetts are seeing shortages as the industry phases out a water-polluting additive, the U.S. Energy Department said on Thursday.
The Energy Department has reported shortages at terminals near Richmond, Virginia, as well as the Tidewater area near Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Beach which distribute gasoline to service stations.
Northern Virginia, Baltimore and Boston are also seeing shortages, the department's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability said.
Pumps go dry at some gas stations: Problems at refineries have disrupted some supplies. AAA warned that problems could continue for weeks - and drive prices higher.
As if rising prices weren't enough, the tanks have run dry at some Philadelphia-area service stations in the last few days as the refining industry stumbles through a change in the formulation of gasoline.
Oil refiners are phasing out a petrochemical that makes gasoline burn cleaner but which also has been found to contaminate groundwater. Refiners are switching to corn-based ethanol.
The changeover is creating supply-chain bottlenecks because much work must be done at fuel terminals and service stations to handle ethanol.
Gas shortages spread across Hampton Roads
A shortage of available retail gasoline spread across Hampton Roads on Wednesday, leaving customers staring at filling-station nozzles covered in plastic bags and homemade signs that read “no gas.”
Stations in every city ran dry, while prices – already averaging $2.82 a gallon for regular unleaded – were poised to break the $3 barrier before the start of the summer season.
The scarce supplies and higher prices were driven by a triple whammy reverberating through the retail fuel business: the conversion to gasoline with new ethanol-based additives , surging world crude-oil prices and the annual industry switch to lower-smog-producing summer blends.
With these air quality benefits, why is there concern with the use of MTBE?
A growing number of studies have detected MTBE in ground water throughout the country; in some instances these contaminated waters are sources of drinking water. Low levels of MTBE can make drinking water supplies undrinkable due to its offensive taste and odor.
Is MTBE harmful to humans?
The majority of the human health-related research conducted to date on MTBE has focused on effects associated with the inhalation of the chemical. When research animals inhaled high concentrations of MTBE, some developed cancers or experienced other non-cancerous health effects. To date, independent expert review groups who have assessed MTBE inhalation health risks...have not concluded that the use of MTBE-oxygenated gasoline poses an imminent threat to public health. However, researchers have limited data about what the health effects may be if a person swallows (ingests) MTBE. EPA's Office of Water has concluded that available data are not adequate to estimate potential health risks of MTBE at low exposure levels in drinking water but that the data support the conclusion that MTBE is a potential human carcinogen at high doses. Recent work by EPA and other researchers is expected to help determine more precisely the potential for health effects from MTBE in drinking water.