Gas Stations Report Fuel Shortages in Southeast After Ransomware Attack Shuts Down Major Pipeline

Customers wait in line to purchase fuel at the Duck-Thru in Scotland Neck, N.C., on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. The station was doing a brisk business on Tuesday as news of the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline spread fear of a gas shortage in rural North Carolina. Stations ran out of fuel in a number of states. (Robert Willett/ The News & Observer via The Associated Press)

Lines of panicked drivers overwhelmed gas stations in the Southeast on Tuesday as rising prices fed fears of shortages in the aftermath of a ransomware attack that shut down the nation’s largest fuel pipeline.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the region can expect a “crunch” that will take several days to alleviate.

’’We have gasoline,’’ she said during a White House briefing. ’’We just have to get it to the right places. And that’s why I think the next couple of days will be challenging.’’

The Colonial Pipeline, which moves about 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel, shut down Friday after hackers infiltrated servers and encrypted its data, demanding a fee to restore access. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was at the briefing, said American organizations have lost more than $350 million this year as a result of ransomware attacks.

’’The threat is not imminent,’’ he said. ’’It is upon us.’’

Now consumers are seeing some of the fallout as Colonial pushes to resume service by the end of the week.

On Tuesday morning, more than 7 percent of gas stations in Virginia, 5 percent in North Carolina and nearly 4 percent in Georgia were without fuel, according to Patrick De Haan, an oil analyst at Gas Buddy. A number of stations in Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina also reported dry pumps. De Haan said fuel demand in these states spiked 40 percent on Monday, and warned against panic-buying, which would exacerbate the shortages.

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SOURCE: Boston Globe, Taylor Telford and Will Englund

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