Fuel shortages worsened in the southeastern US yesterday, as the shutdown of the largest US fuel pipeline network entered its sixth day and Washington officials pledged to help alleviate supply issues. A ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline last week halted 2.5mn barrels per day of fuel shipments. The pipeline stretches 8,850km from US Gulf Coast oil refineries to consumers in Mid-Atlantic and Southeast states.
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the Biden administration is working around the clock to help deal with fuel shortages and restore Colonial operations, including moving gasoline to places that need it.
The White House also said top officials were considering new ways to alleviate the shortages, following a raft of waivers easing quality standards for gasoline and extending working hours for fuel truckers to boost shipments.
“Our top priority right now is getting the fuel the communities that need it, and we will continue doing everything that we can to meet that goal in the coming days,” Buttigieg told reporters at the White House.
Congressional committee members have asked for a formal briefing from a White House interagency task force about the federal response to the most disruptive cyberattack on US energy infrastructure.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday said Colonial’s chief executive indicated that the company would soon decide whether it can make a full restart, which could take days to complete.
Privately owned Colonial Pipeline opened portions of the line manually in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and the Carolinas. It also accepted 2mn barrels of fuel to begin a restart that would “substantially” restore operations by week’s end, the company said.
The supply crunch has sparked panic buying in the US southeast, bringing long lines and high prices at gas stations ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend at the end of May, the traditional start of the peak summer driving season.
The average national gasoline price rose to above $3 a gallon yesterday, the highest since October 2014, the American Automobile Association said.
Nearly 60% of gas stations in metro Atlanta were without gasoline yesterday, tracking firm GasBuddy said.
More than 70% of stations were out in metro Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, and Pensacola, Florida.
Virginia and South Carolina also saw relatively high outages.
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