U.S. motorists urged not to panic over fuel shortages.
WASHINGTON – Amid regional fuel shortages and panic buying of gasoline, the U.S. government is trying to assure motorists that fuel supplies will resume in full in the coming days through a critical pipeline that was suspended after a cyberattack from Russia.
Energy and Homeland Security secretaries took to the podium at the White House on Tuesday, trying to ease worries amid predictions that gasoline prices will rise to levels not seen in years.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm acknowledged that several state governors are concerned that “gas stations are running out of fuel.”
She said North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia are facing the worst consequences of the shutdown of the roughly 9,000-mile pipeline.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Tuesday. North Carolina did the same.
Meanwhile, Granholm warned the industry, “We will not tolerate inflated prices.”
Colonial Pipeline, headquartered in Georgia, is expected to be able to make a decision on a restart by the close of business Wednesday, but “it will take several days to restore operations,” the energy secretary said.
According to Granholm, the company acted responsibly by shutting down the pipeline so that “the ransomware would not spread.”
The U.S. government and states are taking a number of temporary measures to alleviate the gasoline and jet fuel crisis.
For example, some fuel taxes are being suspended. Also under consideration is allowing foreign ships to carry fuel. This will require an exception to the Jones Act, which states that only U.S. ships can transport goods between U.S. ports.
Some airlines import fuel for their own use.
Neither the government nor the company itself said whether Colonial Pipeline paid any ransom.
A Russia-based cybercrime group known as Darkside claimed responsibility for the attack on Colonial Pipeline and said it was only interested in money and had no intention of causing political, economic or social problems.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow has nothing to accuse it of.
“Russia had nothing to do with these hacking attacks. Russia had nothing to do with the earlier hacking attacks,” Peskov told reporters. – We categorically do not accept any accusations against us.”
Peskov’s White House colleague was asked to comment on the alleged involvement of Russian authorities.
Given that the Federal Bureau of Investigation links the ransomware attack to Russian territory, “this country has an obligation to act responsibly,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“We will wait for our intelligence community’s full assessment of what happened before we can say more about it,” she added.