Less than a week after the “worst cyberattack in U.S. history” shut it down altogether, the Colonial Pipeline, which provides almost half of the East Coast’s oil and gas from Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, resumed its operations on Wednesday at approximately 5:00 Eastern Time.
The company warned, however, that it would not bring the pipeline to full capacity right away. “Following the restart,” an official statement read, “it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal … Some markets … may experience … intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.”
This is reassuring, though not totally unexpected, news. President Biden had earlier said that he expected “good news” from the company.
The pipeline was hit with a cyberattack from the hacker group DarkSide on Friday; to prevent the spread of the malware, the company shut down all 5,500 miles of its pipeline. This caused severe disruptions to the supply of oil and gas along the eastern seaboard, with Biden and local governors declaring a state of emergency and lifting restrictions on fuel transportation to ensure distribution of fuel.
In spite of these efforts, the sudden absence of 2.5 million barrels of oil and gas per day was felt across the East Coast. Many areas experienced fuel shortages, and several airports reported low supplies of aviation fuel, although several major airlines have insisted that the shutdown has not affected their operations.
The outlook for drivers on the East Coast is less rosy. According to GasBuddy, 68% of gas stations in North Carolina were closed on Wednesday, as were 49% of stations in Georgia and 45% in South Carolina and Virginia. Some of this absence was tied to “panic buying,” or consumers purchasing more fuel than they needed to stock up for the future, exacerbating an existing shortage – a situation vaguely reminiscent of an earlier crisis in the spring of 2020.
Despite the existence of price-gouging legislation, some customers reported stations selling gas at prices as high as $7 per gallon. On Wednesday, the national average increased to $3 per gallon, the first time it had crossed this benchmark since the collapse of oil prices from $107 per barrel to $40 per barrel in 2014.
Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest.