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Gas Panic-Buying Becomes 'Self-Fulfilling Prophecy'

Pipeline shutdown is now in its fifth day
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 11, 2021 6:32 PM CDT

(Newser) – More than 1,000 gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel, primarily because of what analysts say is unwarranted panic-buying among drivers, as the shutdown of a major pipeline by a gang of hackers entered its fifth day Tuesday. Government officials acted swiftly to waive safety and environmental rules to speed the delivery of fuel by truck, ship, or rail to motorists and airports, even as they sought to assure the public that there was no cause for alarm, the AP reports. The Colonial Pipeline, the biggest fuel pipeline in the US, delivering about 45% of what is consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them.

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A large part of the pipeline resumed operations manually late Monday, and Colonial anticipates restarting most of its operations by the end of the week, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. Motorists may still feel a crunch because it takes a few days to ramp up operations, but she said there is no reason to hoard gasoline. S&P’s Oil Price Information Service put the number of gas stations encountering shortages at more than 1,000. "A lot of that is because they’re selling three or four times as much gasoline that they normally sell in a given day, because people do panic," says Tom Kloza, an analyst with S&P. "It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy." In Virginia, 7.7% of the state’s nearly 3,900 gas stations reported running out of fuel Tuesday, according to Gasbuddy.com, which tracks supply. In North Carolina, 8.5% of almost 5,400 stations were out, the company said. (Analysts say gas prices could start rising soon.)

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