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Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced Thursday he will be releasing 500,000 barrels of crude oil from an emergency reserve to ease gas price spikes in light of disruptions to energy infrastructure due to Hurricane Harvey, per the AP.

  • The EPA has also expanded emergency gasoline waivers to include 38 states and D.C. to avoid disruptions related to the storm, per the AP.
  • The Department of Transportation is waiving operator qualifications to "expedite the engagement of pipeline" personnel to help with response and recovery S&P Global Platts reports.

The latest on the disruptions:

  • Gas prices: So far, the national average for gas at the pump was up Thursday afternoon to $2.48, up more than 13 cents from last week's average of $2.35, per GasBuddy.com. Gasoline futures shot up 14% Thursday, which indicates gas prices will likely keep increasing.
  • Refining: At least 4.3 million barrels per day of refining capacity, over 20% of U.S. capacity, are offline in Texas and Louisiana, per Reuters. There's a concern that most Texas refineries will be affected for weeks, not just days, CNN reports. The largest refinery in the U.S. in Port Arthur, Motiva's refinery, was shut down, along with Valero, Wednesday. About 15 refineries have shut down in total, accounting for about a quarter of U.S. refining capacity, per GasBuddy.com.
  • Pipelines: Colonial Pipeline, which operates the largest refined petroleum network in the country, had to shut down its major pathways because it doesn't have enough product from the affected refineries. Colonial Pipeline said it expects service to resume Sunday. Explorer Pipeline system is also not operating due to reduced refiner supply, WSJ reports.
  • Reduced supplies: Cities from Texas to Maryland are going to see "significantly reduced or unavailable supply," according to Mansfield Oil Co., WSJ reports. Due to fears of reduced supply, some gasoline is being shipped to the South from the North of the country, an unusual route, WSJ reports. U.S. gas exports to Mexico are also reduced, per S&P Global Platts. Prices are rising on European gasoline products, and is the most expensive it's been in two years, allowing them to profit from overseas shipping, per the WSJ.
  • Fracking delays: More than half of the rigs running in Eagle Ford Shale, one of the nation's busiest oil fields, are estimated to have been suspended. It was the only shale basin of the big four to stop activity, but it's estimated the floodwaters could delay 10% of U.S. fracking, Bloomberg reports.
  • Utilities in Texas and Louisiana reduced the number of customers without power to about 209,000, per Platts. The Public Utility Commission of Texas has suspended some rules to expedite the relief efforts. Centerpoint Energy, Houston's main transmission and distribution utility said about 23,000 are still inaccessible due to floodwaters as of about 10am Thursday. American Electric Power cut customer outages in Texas to 88,000 from a Sunday height of 220,000, per SeekingAlpha.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.