Cyberattack That Shut Down Pipeline Could Cause Gas Shortages, Price Hikes

By Bill Galluccio

May 11, 2021

Drivers along the East Coast may see a surge in gas prices, or in some cases, have a hard time finding fuel at all after a cyberattack forced one of the nation's largest gas pipelines to shut down.

The Colonial Pipeline Company was the victim of a ransomware attack by a group of hackers known as DarkSide on Friday (May 7). The company hopes to have the pipeline operational by the end of the week, but the shutdown is squeezing the fuel supply as demand ramps up. The Colonial Pipeline runs from Houston, Texas, to Linden, New Jersey, and supplies about 45% of fuel used up and down the East Coast.

In the meantime, some gas stations are having a hard time keeping their tanks full and may run out of gasoline before their next shipment arrives. The other issue is ensuring that airports have enough jet fuel on hand to keep planes fueled up. While most airports have about a week's worth of jet fuel in storage, if the pipeline remains closed longer than a week, airlines may have to start canceling flights or find another source of jet fuel.

American Airlines has already made changes to its flight schedule due to the fuel shortage. The airline said that its direct flight from Charlotte to Honolulu will stop in Dallas/Fort Worth so customers can change to a different aircraft. The direct flight from Charlotte to London will now stop in Boston to receive additional fuel before heading across the Atlantic Ocean.

Experts are advising people not to panic and start hoarding fuel because it could make the situation worse.

"The more hoarding happens, the longer this event impacts supply," Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.com, told NBC News. "Hoarding is going to drastically strain the system ... because there's no intermediate breathing room."

In response to the shortage, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp suspended the state's gasoline tax, while Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency declaration to help the state prepare for any fuel shortages. According to CNN, 7.6% of gas stations in Virginia have run out of fuel.

Both governors said they expect the shortages to be short-lived and urged residents not to hoard fuel.

There are also reports of long lines and stations running out of gasoline in North and South Carolina.

Photo: Getty Images

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