Photo: Forbes

White House confirms fuel shortages amid rising gasoline prices after cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline

*The White House in Washington, United States, says there are fuel shortages in southeast of the country, and the Colonial Pipeline facility will not ‘substantially’ restore service until this weekend

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Following the disruptive cyberattack that has paralysed the Colonial Pipeline facility for days now, gas stations along the United States (US) East Coast are starting to run out of fuel as North America’s biggest petroleum pipeline fights to recover from the attack.

From Virginia to Florida and Alabama, fuel stations are reporting that they’ve sold out of gasoline as supplies in the region dwindle and panic buying sets in.

ConsumerConnect reports the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack occurred Friday, May 7, 2021, and the American oil pipeline system that originates in Houston, Texas and carries fuel oil to an area mostly comprising the Southeastern US, suffered a ransomware cyberattack that forced them to shut down their system.

Areas affected by cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline Company in the United States   Photo: ArcPublishing

The White House, in reaction to the unsettling incident, said it was aware of shortages in the Southeast of the country and was trying to alleviate the problem in the meantime, agency report stated.

It was gathered that four days into the crisis, Colonial Pipeline Co. has only managed to manually operate a small segment of the pipeline ─ as a stopgap measure ─ and doesn’t expect to be able to substantially restore service before the weekend.

The risk is that by that point drivers or airlines may already be suffering severe fuel shortages, while refineries on the Gulf coast could be forced to idle operations because they have nowhere to put their product, report said.

US average retail gasoline prices have risen to their highest since late 2014 due to the disruption, almost touching $3 per gallon.

That could add to broader inflationary pressures as commodity prices from timber to copper also surge.

US declares Russia has ‘some responsibility’ over pipeline cyberattack

United States President Joe Biden says Russia has “some responsibility” to address a ransomware attack that crippled the Colonial fuel pipeline in the country.

Biden, in a tweet at Quicktake (@Quicktake) stopped short of blaming the Kremlin for the attack but said “there is evidence” the hackers or the software they used are “in Russia.”

United States President Joe Biden

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday, May 11, that Russia has no connection with the cyberattack, according to report.

Earlier, ConsumerConnect had reported the Colonial pipeline has been the most important conduit to distribute gasoline, diesel and jet-fuel in the US, moving the products from the refiners based on the Gulf coast into urban areas from Atlanta to New York and beyond.

On a daily basis, the facility ships about 2.5 million barrels, more than the entire oil consumption of Germany, connecting over 20 refineries with about 200 distribution centres in the country.

A cyberattack prompted the company to take its systems offline, threatening the supply of refined petroleum products to gas stations in major cities on the eastern seaboard in the US Friday, May 7.

Colonial, which runs the largest US gasoline and diesel pipeline system, was reported to have hired a third-party cybersecurity firm to investigate and contact law enforcement and other Federal agencies.

Without the Colonial pipeline regarded as a vital conduit that has been shut down since late Friday, many cities and airports must seek alternative supplies, either fuel imported by tanker or, if landlocked, relying on trucks in the country.

Sequel to the pipeline hacking incident, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Monday, May 10 pointed the finger at a ransomware gang known as DarkSide.

While cyberattacks are increasingly used around the world as a weapon against geopolitical rivals, there was no indication that the current crisis could boil over internationally.

President Joe Biden stopped short of blaming the Kremlin for the attack, despite some evidence that the hackers or the software they used are “in Russia.”

Amid the dwindling supplies to locations, cities and airports in the US, Colonial Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Joe Blount and a top lieutenant assured Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk and state-level officials that the company has complete operational control of the pipeline and won’t restart shipments until the ransomware has been neutralised.

Meanwhile, as fuel supplies are dwindling just as the nation’s energy industry is gearing up to meet stronger fuel demand from summer travel, report indicates Americans are once again, commuting to the office and booking flights after a year of COVID-19 restrictions.

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