Fuel shortages are still taking hold in parts of the US as panicked drivers fill up their tanks in response to this week’s ransomware attack upon the Colonial Pipeline, a key gasoline artery for the east coast.
The shortages are most acute in the US south-east, with one in five gas stations in Atlanta reported to be out of fuel on Tuesday evening. About one in 10 gas stations in North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia have run dry of fuel, according to GasBuddy, an app that tracks fuel prices and demand.
Many drivers have been left in lines for an hour or more to fill up their cars due to panic buying of fuel in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. The pipeline, which moves nearly half of the east coast’s fuel from refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, was shut down on Friday by hackers who demanded money to restore access. The FBI has blamed DarkSide, a hacking group, for the disruption.
Jennifer Granholm, the US energy secretary, urged Americans to not hoard gasoline, adding that the pipeline should be fully operational by Wednesday evening.
“Let me emphasize that much as there was no cause for say, hoarding toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, there should be no cause for hoarding gasoline,” Granholm said.
The surge in buying has pushed fuel prices to their highest levels in six years, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). “People are taking their entire family fleet of vehicles to the gas station and filing up when they don’t need to,” Tiffany Wright, a spokesperson for AAA, told CNN. “We are our own worst enemy in this situation because we are over-consuming at the pump.”
A state of emergency has been declared by Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, with some states and the federal government suspending various fuel regulations in order to ensure an adequate supply.
The disruption to could last for a week or more, with the AAA warning that states including Mississippi, Tennessee and Delaware are likely to experience limited fuel and price increases in the coming days. Granholm said the federal government “will have no tolerance for price-gouging” and urged drivers to report any huge price hikes.