RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Gas stations across the Southeast are running out of fuel as drivers continue to scour for places to fill up since the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S. was shut down Friday after being hit with ransomware attack.
The Colonial Pipeline, which transfers 45% of the gas used along the East Coast, resumed operations Wednesday at 5 p.m., but it will take “several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal,” the company said in a release.
Nonetheless, the cyberattack has caused 52% of gas stations in Virginia to run dry as of Wednesday evening, according to a service tracking gas prices called GasBuddy. Industry experts stressed that panic buying and a shortage of truck drivers to deliver fuel, not a lack of supply, has exacerbated the problems for stations and customers.
These concerns were addressed Wednesday during a press call organized by the American Petroleum Institute, the nation’s largest oil and gas trade group, with leaders from groups in the natural gas and oil supply chain.
“We have an abundant supply of fuel. The U.S. is not running out of gas,” Susan Grissom, chief industry analyst of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, said on the call. She added that efforts from the Biden administration, including waiving weight limits for deliver trucks and hours-of-work limits, have helped but more can be done.
Grissom and others on the call said they urged the federal government to waive the Jones Act, which requires goods transported between U.S. ports to travel only on ships built, operated and crewed by Americans, to assist with the effort. The Biden administration had said a case-by-case system was being considered.
The U.S. has seen the national shortage of truck drivers worsen since the pandemic due to several reasons, the experts said on the call, including longtime truckers being furloughed or retiring early and a struggle to fill those positions. With the pipeline being shut down for days, the reliance and strain on delivery drivers has grown.
“We don’t have access to those qualified drivers and demand continues to rise, magnifying challenges when you have a demand on supply,” Ryan Streblow, the National Tank Truck Carriers’ interim president, explained during the call. “Consumers need to know we are delivering, this is not a gas shortage. This is a commodity delay.”
Another complication has been the massive influx of drivers trying to fill up their tanks, and other containers, in response to the gas shortages at their local gas stations.
“Fuel stockpiling like this would lead to issues in normal conditions,” said Frank Macchiarola, API’s senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs.