Cyberattack causes fuel shortages on East Coast

Photo courtesy of Anthony92931, Wikimedia Commons

By Natalie Luna

A cyberattack that targeted and caused the shutdown of Colonial Pipeline which caused gas shortages throughout the East Coast leaving drivers panicked. Similar to the beginning of the pandemic and the panic-buying of toilet paper, more than 1,000 gas stations in the East Coast reported running out of fuel.

Hackers locked up the computer systems and demanded a ransom to release them. The attack raised huge concerns about the vulnerability of the nation’s critical structure. 

Despite the massive impact on East Coast residents, there has been no impact on California fuel other than the usual summer increase in gas prices. While California gas prices are still on their way up, it is not to do with the cyberattack.

“It should have little impact on what’s happening here in the west, but unfortunately, that does not mean that gas prices in California are not going to increase because AAA does foresee prices in California continuing to climb as we move forward in the next weeks,” Sergio Avila, spokesperson for AAA of Northern California said to ABC.

As happens every summer, California gas prices increase because there is an increase in demand.

Although there was a dip in gas prices last year during the pandemic, prices are up almost 50 cents from before the pandemic last year, according to the LA Almanac.

The East Coast is also starting to get back to normal after the six-day closure of the Colonial Pipeline’s 5,500 mile system, though many stations are still empty. 

After restarting operations Wednesday, the Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline has said that it will move as much fuel as possible, as safely as possible. However, it will take “several days” for things to return to normal, and some areas may experience “intermittent service interruptions during this start-up period,” according to the company’s statement. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an emergency fuel waiver last week aimed at easing fuel shortages caused by the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.

The Colonial Pipeline is the biggest fuel pipeline in the U.S. It delivers about 45 percent of the gas consumed on the East Coast. The pipeline runs from the Texas Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan area. The states that are most dependent on the pipeline include Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas. 

“It takes a couple of weeks for the supply to get down from Texas to Linden, New Jersey, usually about a two-week timeframe, which, if we didn’t have all the panic buying going on would have been plenty of time to make sure every gas station in America is resupplied,” Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst with The Price Futures Group, Inc., stated. 

It is most likely for these states that gas stations will be back to normal by Memorial Day weekend.