Panic Drives Gas Shortages After Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack

Panic Drives Gas Shortages After Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack

11:18pm May 11, 2021
Customers swarm a COSTCO gas station amid fears of a gas shortage in Richmond, Va., Tuesday. The line at the facility extended around the entire building.
Customers swarm a COSTCO gas station amid fears of a gas shortage in Richmond, Va., Tuesday. The line at the facility extended around the entire building.
Steve Helber / AP
  • Customers swarm a COSTCO gas station amid fears of a gas shortage in Richmond, Va., Tuesday. The line at the facility extended around the entire building.

    Customers swarm a COSTCO gas station amid fears of a gas shortage in Richmond, Va., Tuesday. The line at the facility extended around the entire building.

    Steve Helber / AP

  • A QuickTrip convenience has bags on its pumps as the station has no gas on Tuesday in Kennesaw, Ga. Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, halted operations last week after revealing a cyberattack that it said

    A QuickTrip convenience has bags on its pumps as the station has no gas on Tuesday in Kennesaw, Ga. Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast, halted operations last week after revealing a cyberattack that it said

    Mike Stewart / AP

The Colonial Pipeline hack that shut down the major gasoline and jet fuel pipeline to large swaths of the south and the east coast, is leading to temporary shortages.

The cyberattack disabled computer systems responsible for fuel production from Texas to the northeast and now gas stations in the southeast are seeing panicked motorists lining up in droves to fill their tanks and jerrycans. In some cases, NPR's Camilla Domonoske reports, drivers are getting turned away from now-empty gas pumps. The overall anxiety over a shortage has also triggered slight price increases, even as gasoline costs were already beginning to climb.

"We've already seen higher gas prices," Tiffany Wright, a spokeswoman for AAA in the Carolinas said on Tuesday.

"They have gone up as high from anywhere from three to 10 cents overnight," she added.

Kellie Lesley who works at a Food Shop in Marietta, S.C., said the pumps at the gas station are empty.

"We don't have anything but diesel. We were expecting a delivery but it never showed up, it was supposed to have been there at midnight last night," Lesley said, explaining that customers showed up overnight to fill up after hearing about the hack on the news. She called it mean and rude.

"Because there's people that need to go to the doctors and take their kids to school, so just get what you need. Don't hoard it!" she said.

The Biden administration said federal agencies are responding and urged consumers to remain calm and only buy what they need, assuring the public the pipeline will be back and running at full capacity soon.

"We're working around the clock with our federal, state, local and industry partners to respond to the Colonial Pipeline cybersecurity incident," U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Dave Turk said in a video Twitter statement on Tuesday evening.

The department has said officials are considering moving supply by train or ship if necessary. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued temporary fuel transportation waivers to increase the supply of gasoline

Governors where the Colonial Pipeline is the primary fuel source for many retailers have declared states of emergency in response to the ransomware disruption. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order allowing state agencies to issue their own fuel transportation waivers and provides increased funding for state and local governments to ensure adequate fuel supply. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper similarly suspended fuel regulations to get gas flowing again.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp temporarily suspended the gas tax in his state and he has lifted weight limits on trucks transporting fuel. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in his own executive order said he may activate the state's national guard "as needed in response to the temporary shortages there. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster said that a pandemic-related state of emergency already in place, means transportation waivers and price gouging laws are in effect to facilitate fuel delivery and protect consumers.

Experts say pipeline operations should return to normal by the end of this week. They also note gas prices have been steadily going up over the last couple of weeks, due in part to regular seasonal patterns.

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