One of the most important fuel pipelines in the U.S. suffered a cyberattack last week, leading to questions of whether fuel supply will be disrupted, and whether gas prices will rise.
According to CNBC, Colonial Pipeline last Friday suffered a cybersecurity attack involving ransomware, which forced the pipeline to shut down all operations temporarily. The pipeline runs 5,500 miles between Texas and New Jersey.
“At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation,” Colonial Pipeline said in a statement.
“This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline.”
The president was briefed on the matter over the weekend, and a White House spokesperson said that the federal government is "is working actively to assess the implications of this incident, avoid disruption to supply, and help the company restore pipeline operations as quickly as possible."
What will this mean for gas prices? GasBuddy explored that question over the weekend. Really, it’s a question of how quickly the problem is resolved.
“It is true that if the pipeline remains out of service into the early part of next week, roughly Tuesday or so, that some gas stations may run low on gasoline. Tank farms that take the gasoline from the pipeline are likely starting to see supply run low, so it is vital that motorists do not overwhelm the system by filling their tanks.”
The report added that any disruptions that take place are likely to happen first in the Southeastern United States, most likely Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama.
Per Axios, the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a “regional emergency declaration” for 17 states as well as the District of Columbia.
Also, once the pipeline is back online, it will likely take at least a few days for things to return to normal.
“It’s very difficult to pin the exact amount prices may rise, but for now, it appears to be a few cents per gallon, possibly growing more significant if the pipeline remains shut down for more than 2-3 more days,” GasBuddy said.
Politico quoted market analysts as stating that gas prices in the Southeast could exceed $3 a gallon if the shutdown persists for more than a few days. Amy Myers Jaffe, a long-time energy researcher and author of Energy’s Digital Future, described the attack to Politico as “the most significant, successful attack on energy infrastructure we know of in the United States."
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.