The White House has told motorists to stop hoarding fuel as supply runs low across the 12 states impacted by the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.
Biden administration officials have expanded an emergency fuel waiver to the 12 states, and the District of Columbia, allowing them to sell off-spec gasoline to alleviate shortages caused by the ransomwear hack on Colonial.
“I think that folks should follow the advice of the governors and attorney generals, they are asking folks not to panic not to hoard gasoline, and to watch for the updates coming from the federal government,” said Michael Regan, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator said at the White House daily press briefing.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that the impact of the winter storms in Texas, followed by the Colonial hack should be a “wake-up call” about the need to improve US infrastructure.
He also rejected a suggestion that the hack on Colonial, which has taken down 45 per cent of the fuel supply on the east coast, meant the US needed to simply build more pipelines.
“This is an issue of how a cyberattack impacted a pipeline that is there, I am not sure it really speaks to the number or quantity of pipelines or their throughput,” he said.
“I do think it reminds us that we need to make sure that we have the most resilient and flexible infrastructure for the future.
“We have had, you could argue, two major wake-up call experiences, one in Texas and now one here, each with a different cause, but both reminding us of the work we have to do as a country.”
The Department of Transportation also issued a new order allowing trucks to carry overweight loads of fuels on highways to increase supply along Colonial’s route.
Motorists entered into a brawl on Tuesday at an overcrowded gas station, as Americans across the Southeast experienced fuel shortages and outages amid the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.
Video footage showed a long line of cars waiting at a gas station in Knightdale, North Carolina, to refuel.
One woman driving a Honda Accord then attempted to cut the line but was denied entrance by another vehicle.
Out of frustration, the woman appeared to get out of her vehicle and spit on the male driver who refused to let her cut. This appeared to prompt the man to get out of his vehicle and spit on the woman. The pair then allegedly entered into a brawl, which resulted in the man getting his shirt torn.
The Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline has been shut down for the sixth day following a ransomware attack that was reported on Friday. The pipeline runs about 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey, transporting more than 100 million gallons of fuel per day.
As of Wednesday morning, 24.8 per cent of North Carolina, 15.4 of Georgia, 15 per cent of Virginia, and 13.4 per cent of South Carolina gas stations were completely out of gasoline, according to data compiled by GasBuddy.
Outages were even worse when getting into the major cities of these states, with GasBuddy reporting 60 per cent of Atlanta and 71 per cent of metro Charlotte reporting complete outages of fuel at their gas stations. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have called the situation a “gas crisis” and have requested that all non-essential travel be avoided.
Panic buying has likely led to shortages at fuel stations and price hikes across the East Coast, given the US currently has a surplus of gasoline and oil supply due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm implored Americans during a White House press briefing to not “hoard” fuel amid the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, but that hasn’t stopped residents from racing to the pump to fuel up.
“Much as there was no cause for, say, hoarding toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic, there should be no cause for hoarding gasoline,” Ms Granholm said on Tuesday.
Ms Granholm acknowledged that there would be a gasoline “crunch” in areas where they received about 70 per cent of their total fuel from the pipeline, and that included states like North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
“We know that we have gasoline, we just have to get it to the right places,” she said. “And that’s why these next couple of days will be challenging … it’s not that we have a gasoline shortage, we have a supply crunch.”
Colonial Pipeline was expected to be “in a position to make a full restart decision” on Wednesday evening, Ms Granholm said.
Even if the company moves to restart the system on Wednesday, though, Ms Granholm said it would take a few days for the pipeline to restore its full operating service.