It Sure Seems Like A Massive Gas Shortage Is Just About Here

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Gas in the U.S. is increasingly in short supply because of a major cyberattack on a pipeline, Nissan had a record annual loss, and Tesla. All that and more in The Morning Shift for May 11, 2021.

1st Gear: Gas Stations Are Running Out Of Gas On The East Coast

This is because the Colonial Pipeline was hacked last week and has been shut down since Friday. The expectation is that it might not be back online again until this weekend at the earliest, according to Bloomberg. When it’s operating, around 2.5 million barrels are shipped each day on the pipeline, which is America’s biggest and primarily serves the East Coast. Nearly half of all the East Coast’s gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel comes through the pipeline, meaning that its shutdown will have effects well beyond cars.

From Virginia to Florida and Alabama, fuel stations are reporting that they’ve sold out of gasoline as supplies in the region dwindle and panic buying sets in. The White House said it was aware of shortages in the Southeast of the country and was trying to alleviate the problem.

Four days into the crisis, Colonial Pipeline Co. has only managed to manually operate a small segment of the pipeline — as a stopgap measure — and doesn’t expect to be able to substantially restore service before the weekend. The risk is that by that point drivers or airlines may already be suffering severe fuel shortages, while refineries on the Gulf coast could be forced to idle operations because they have nowhere to put their product.


In Asheville, North Carolina, Aubrey Clements, a clerk at an Exxon Mobil Corp. station answered the phone with “Hello, I’m currently out of gas.” The Marathon gas station in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, had roughly two dozen cars waiting to fuel up, said an employee there.

Drivers pulling into a station with a sign offering unleaded gasoline for $2.649 per gallon in Manning, South Carolina, were met with pumps covered in yellow and red “out of service” bags. An estimated 7% of gas stations in the state of Virginia were out of fuel as of late Monday, according to GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan.


A gas shortage, if you’ve ever experienced one, is a whole lot of no fun. We had one in 2012 in these parts, and I remember filling up my tank just before it started by chance, feeling very smug about everything. Then the shortage kept persisting, and, eventually, my fuel got low, too.

I drove north in desperation and ended up at a vacant station in Putnam County. There was no attendant, but also no line and no cars at the pump; it all seemed a little too good to be true. But the pump worked, so I paid, filled up, and left, figuring it was best not to ask too many questions.


(Editor’s Note: Erik died that day, and his ghost has been haunting Jalopnik’s servers ever since. There was no gas. There was never any gas.)

2nd Gear: An Electric Truck Startup Is Somehow Valued At $3.3 Billion

The startup is called Plus, and, no, I haven’t heard of it before either. Plus is one of an array of startups that are selling investors on an autonomous long-haul trucking future. Whether that is real or not doesn’t really matter, as investors are pouring in millions and millions of dollars.


From Bloomberg:

Self-driving truck startup Plus agreed to merge with special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V, becoming the latest developer of autonomous vehicles to seek a public listing via a blank-check firm.

The combined company is set to have a market value of about $3.3 billion, Plus said in a statement Monday, confirming an earlier Bloomberg News report. It is raising $150 million from investors including BlackRock Inc. and D.E. Shaw & Co. through a so-called private investment in public equity, or PIPE deal.

Plus’s existing shareholders will roll over all their holdings and are expected to own a combined 80% stake when the deal closes. The combined company will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker PLAV. Shares of the Hennessy SPAC slipped as much as 0.9% shortly after the open of regular trading.


I should’ve been a business major.

3rd Gear: Nissan Has A Record Loss

Nissan said Tuesday that it lost $1.38 billion in the fiscal year ending in March, a 12-month record for the company. Its forecast for the upcoming year isn’t much better, because of the chip shortage and its continued shrinkage.


From Automotive News:

Nissan, which is pulling back from the global expansion pursued by ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn, had to cut production of its best-selling Note compact car in Japan and make short-term output adjustments at its North American operations last quarter due to the chip shortage.

CEO Makoto Uchida has predicted that the company will return to profitability this year as it pushes to cut costs and rouse stagnating consumer interest with new models. But Nissan’s performance amid the pandemic relative to peers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and the toll the chip shortage is weighing on the beleaguered automaker’s ability to produce cars highlights lingering fragility.

While Nissan’s business transformation is making steady progress, there is “continued business risk due to semiconductor supply shortage and raw material price hike in this fiscal year,” the company said in its statement Tuesday. “While working to minimize the impact of these risks and factoring the potential impact, Nissan has set operating profit forecast at plus or minus zero.”


A profit forecast of “plus or minus zero” owns, honestly.

4th Gear: The NTSB’s Preliminary Report On That Deadly Tesla Crash Has Only Added To The Confusion

Local officials said initially that no one was in the driver’s seat of a Tesla when it hit a tree and burst into flames in Texas last month. But in a preliminary report released Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board said that the car’s owner was seen getting into the driver’s seat, according to the Associated Press.

Home security camera footage shows that the owner of a Tesla got into the driver’s seat of the car shortly before a deadly crash in suburban Houston, according to a government report Monday.

The preliminary report on the crash that killed two men does not explain why authorities found no one behind the wheel of the car, which burst into flames after crashing about 550 feet from the owner’s home. Nor does it conclusively say whether Tesla’s “Autopilot” partially automated driver-assist system was operating at the time of the crash.

The NTSB said it tested a different Tesla vehicle on the same road, and the Autopilot driver-assist system could not be fully used. Investigators could not get the system’s automated steering system to work, but were able to use Traffic Aware Cruise Control.


I have feeling we’re never really gonna know what went down.

5th Gear: President Biden Is Going To Michigan Ahead Of Ford F-150 Lightning Debut

Ford officially announced Monday that the electric F-150 will be called the F-150 Lightning, which we first heard about last month. It sounds like Biden will be in town next week ahead of its reveal.


From The Detroit News:

President Joe Biden plans to visit Ford Motor Co. in Michigan next week — likely the day before the automaker’s Wednesday night launch of the electric version of the F-150 pickup truck, two sources familiar with the situation tell The Detroit News.

The F-150 Lightning EV still will be unveiled May 19 at the company’s headquarters in Dearborn, where workers spent the past few days installing a giant projector screen on the south side of world headquarters to tout the new truck.

The president is expected to tour Ford’s new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, the new plant where the electric F-150 will be built, and other facilities next Tuesday. He is expected to view the new truck, receive a technical rundown from Ford engineers and offer remarks where the electrified version of the iconic pickup will be built by union labor.


I think the name was a missed opportunity for Ford to finally make the F-150 part of the Mustang family.

Neutral: Tubeless


You ever been to Akron? No? You should visit sometime. I recommend Luigi’s.

Neutral: How Are You?

In many ways, I can’t believe we’ve all held it together this long. Well, mostly. Yesterday, I had a brain fart and wrote the word “appreciable” when I meant “appreciating.” The seams are finally beginning to show.