Updated May 12, 2021 - Economy

Colonial Pipeline hack: Gas shortage grips southeast U.S.

A person filling multiple gas canisters at a gas station in Benson, North Carolina, on May 12.

A person filling multiple gas canisters at a gas station in Benson, North Carolina, on May 12. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

At least 11 states and Washington, D.C. are experiencing gas shortages after a ransomware attack forced Colonial Pipeline, a critical pipeline running from Texas to New York, offline on Saturday, according to crowdsourced data collected by the app GasBuddy.

Why it matters: The event demonstrates how a cyber breach of critical infrastructure can cripple large swaths of the country and that no company is safe from ransomware attempts.

By the numbers: The percentage of gas stations with fuel outages per state and D.C. as of 2:48 p.m. ET, according to GasBuddy:

  • Georgia: 43%
  • Alabama: 7%
  • Tennessee: 16%
  • South Carolina: 43%
  • North Carolina: 65%
  • Florida: 11%
  • Virginia: 44%
  • Maryland: 11%
  • Mississippi: 5%
  • West Virginia: 4%
  • Kentucky: 2%
  • District of Columbia: 10%

Of note: All data reported by GasBuddy is crowdsourced from app users and therefore may not reflect the most current information.

What they're saying: Patrick De Haan, a senior petroleum analyst at Gasbuddy, said in a tweet Tuesday that gasoline demand increased by 14.3% compared to the prior Tuesday, while week-to-date demand is up 10.7%.

  • De Haan added in another tweet that the shortages may be the result of a lack of drivers to transport fuel rather than a lack of supply.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press conference Wednesday that President Biden is "using every lever of government to ensure we reduce the impact on the American people and their lives."

The big picture: The Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a regional emergency declaration for 17 states and D.C. to keep fuel supply lines open on Monday.

  • The governors of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency on Tuesday due to shortage concerns.
  • Colonial said in a statement Monday that segments of the pipeline are being brought back online in a "stepwise fashion," with the goal of "substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week."

Go deeper: The ransomware pandemic

Editor's note: This story has been update with new data from GasBuddy.

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