The World Forum - June 20th, 2024

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East coast, southern U.S. see gas shortages after cyberattack on major pipeline


Motorists across the American east coast and south are struggling to find diesel and gasoline as gas stations run dry amid the Colonial pipeline disruption caused by a criminal hack. 

Convenience stores and gas stations are turning customers away as many are panic-buying petrol, causing tanks to run dry amid the shortage. 

A Washington D.C.-area fuel distributor warned that “catastrophic” shortages are imminent, calling on government officials to order school buses to stay off the roads. 

On Friday, Colonial Pipeline ceased operations and notified the federal government that it had been targeted by a ransomware cyberattack. Colonial has said little about its next steps, leaving oil refiners and distributors out of the loop on what will happen over the next 48 hours. 

Companies that are reliant on the pipeline are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of transparency according to a shipper. 

“We have been providing daily and sometimes twice daily updates to our shippers, and have been in close contact with law enforcement and federal agencies to relay information on our restoration efforts,” Colonial’s media relations office said in an email. “We will continue to keep all of our stakeholders informed and appreciate the outpouring of support we have received throughout the industry.”

Average retail gasoline prices in the U.S. have skyrocketed, nearing $3 a gallon, the highest since late 2014. 

“It’s going to be catastrophic,” said John Patrick, chief operating officer of Liberty Petroleum LLC. “Governors should declare a state of emergency and ask people chasing tanker trucks to gas stations to stay home. School buses stay put.”

Four days into the crisis, Colonial managed to restart a small segment of the pipeline as a temporary measure, but doesn’t expect to be able to restore the service substantially before the weekend. 

The Colonial pipeline is one of the most important conduits for the distribution of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel in the U.S. The pipeline connects refineries across the Gulf Coast to centers from Atlanta to New York, shipping approximately 2.5 million barrels. 

Many cities and airports are being forced to seek alternative supplies imported by barges, tanker ships, or trucks during the shutdown.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation put the blame on a ransomware gang known as DarkSide. While cyberattacks are increasingly used across the globe as weapons against geopolitical rivals, there was no indication yet that the crisis would become international.