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Gas prices hit 7-year high as Colonial pipeline shutdown spurs panic buying

The national average gas price rose to a 7-year high on Wednesday and four governors have now declared states of emergency as the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline spurred panic buying at gas stations across the Southeast. 

The shutdown of the biggest oil pipeline in the US from a crippling cyberattack believed to be orchestrated by a Russia-based criminal group pushed Wednesday’s national average price to $3.008 per gallon of gas, according to the Automobile Association of America. That’s the highest prices have been since November 2014, AAA said. 

The closure of the 5,500-mile pipeline, which carries more than 100 million gallons of fuel from Texas to New Jersey each day, has stretched into its sixth day. 

It sparked wild scenes of panic buying across the Southeast as more than 1,000 gas stations ran dry and people scrambled to load up — even as the White House urged Americans Tuesday night not to hoard fuel. The governors of Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia have all declared states of emergency in their areas to authorize temporary rules to help alleviate the rising price of gasoline. 

Across Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Maryland and Virginia, nearly 1,800 stations are out of gasoline.

Joe Fisher, a reporter with WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina tweeted out a video of a fight that broke out after a woman “tried to cut the line, hit a car & spit on a man while yelling,” Fisher said. 

Dannikka Ramirez in Kentucky told WYMT that people are “freaking out” and “standing in lines with gas jugs” rather than filling up cars. 

One frustrated driver tweeted, “There’s really no gas……WTF.”

Anthony Kustura, a reporter with WSOC-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina tweeted out images of an out-of-service sign and another that read “NO GAS!!!”

A line of vehicles wait for fuel at a gas station in Norfolk, Virginia on May 11, 2021 after a cyberattack crippled the Colonial Pipeline.

“There’s no shortage of fuel, but panic buying is leaving many gas stations without any to sell,” Kustura wrote. He added that some drivers waited “hours overnight to fuel up.”

“I talked to one driver who told me he ran out of gas & had to push his car to the one working pump here,” he said on Twitter.

Uber driver Isaac Campbell in North Carolina told WSOC that he spent much of the day looking for gas and only had a gallon left in the tank.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get back to home,” he said.

Jean Jadhon of WDBJ7 tweeted a video that showed dozens of cars waiting in line at a Sam’s Club in Roanoke, Virginia. 

Twitter user @rebeccakayj shared an image early Wednesday morning showing almost a dozen cars lined up at a South Carolina gas station — only to learn that its pumps are out of gas. Others shared images late Tuesday in Charlottesville, Virginia of lines stretching from gas stations into streets. 

Others took to social media to share inflated gas prices and images of people filling up barrels and massive tanks with gas to store in case of a lingering impact. 

Drivers wait in a long line to fill up their vehicles at a Kroger supermarket gas station in Decatur, Georgia, on May 11, 2021.

While the national average gas price is ticking upward, it’s rising severely in hard-hit states. The average price per gallon in South Carolina is at $2.82, according to AAA, up from $2.64 just a week ago. Virginia has seen its price rise about 13 cents compared with a week ago, according to AAA data.

Alpharetta, Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline suspended all operations after it was hit Friday by a ransomware attack that could prove to be among the most costly in US history. 

The company said Monday that it hopes to get most of its operations back online by the weekend, but there could be lingering impacts on gas prices and supply in the hardest-hit states.

Across Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Maryland and Virginia, nearly 1,800 stations were out of gasoline as of late Tuesday, according to GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan’s estimates. 

Panic buying has caused gas stations across the South Eastern United States to run out of fuel.

Nearly 60 percent of stations in Norfolk, Virginia and Raleigh, North Carolina were without gas by late Tuesday, DeHaan said, and nearly 50 percent in Atlanta were out. He added that he expects the supply crunch to ease at least a bit beginning Wednesday.

About 25 percent of gas stations in North Carolina were out of fuel by early Wednesday, according to DeHaan’s estimates. He added that more than 15 percent of gas stations in Georgia and Virginia, 13.4 percent in South Carolina as well as 4.2 percent in Florida are also reporting that they’ve sold out of fuel.

While the company said Monday that it’s manually operating a portion of the pipeline running from North Carolina to Maryland, most of the line is still down. Colonial is working with the federal government to investigate and respond to the hacking. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Sunday that an “all-hands-on-deck” effort is underway to restore operations.

“We are working closely with the company, state and local officials to make sure that they get back up to normal operations as quickly as possible and there aren’t disruptions in supply,” Raimondo said.

On Monday, the FBI confirmed the cyberattack was carried out by a professional gang of hackers known as “DarkSide.”

DarkSide is known to extort cash from corporations and give a cut to charity, the Associated Press reported Sunday, citing sources familiar with the federal investigation.

In a statement reportedly posted on DarkSide’s website, the group claimed, “Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future.”

About 25 percent of gas stations in North Carolina were out of fuel, according to analysts.

The statement, provided to CNBC by the Boston-based security company Cybereason on Monday, added: “We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives.”

While President Biden stopped short Monday of linking the Kremlin and DarkSide, he said that “there is evidence that the actors’ ransomware is in Russia.”

During a White House briefing, Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies, also described DarkSide as “a criminal actor” but said that “our intelligence community is looking for any ties to any nation-state actors.”

Per: NYP

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