Pipeline cyberattack may drive gas prices higher

Gas pump nozzles
Gas pump nozzles

The national gas price average jumped six cents to $2.96 this week and with another three-cent increase predicted, gas could be at its highest price in 7 years.

Gas prices reached $2.99 and higher in November 2014, according to a AAA report.

AAA forecasts gas prices to climb this week in reaction to the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which delivers approximately 45 percent of all fuel to the East Coast.

Over the weekend, the Colonial Pipeline announced it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack and, as a precaution, shut down the pipeline, which runs from Texas to New York Harbor. At this time, some lateral lines have reopened, but there is no word of when the mainline, including the gasoline line, will be operational.

“This shutdown will have implications on both gasoline supply and prices, but the impact will vary regionally,” said Jeanette McGee, AAA spokesperson. “Areas including Mississippi, Tennessee and the East Coast from Georgia into Delaware are most likely to experience limited fuel availability and price increases, as early as this week. These states may see prices increase three to seven cents this week.”

The longer the pipeline is offline, the larger the impact on the East Coast. However, foreign gasoline imports and other pipelines can supplement northeastern supply. Other areas of the country will see little impact.

While there is sufficient gasoline supply in the U.S. (235.8 million bbl), other pipelines and the Department of Transportation’s temporary hours-of-service exemption for tanker trucks transporting gasoline and other fuels, will be able to ease the strain, but not resolve the issues caused by the pipeline interruption. Once the pipeline is up and running, there could still be residual delays as it takes about 15–18 days for fuel to flow from Texas to New York.

AAA said it will continue to monitor the latest news concerning the Colonial Pipeline. In the meantime, it urged against panic-buying of gasoline and published the following tips for conserving fuel:

—Plan ahead to accomplish multiple errands in one trip, and whenever possible avoid high-traffic times of day.

—If you own more than one car, use the most fuel-efficient model that meets the needs of any given journey.

—Remove unnecessary and bulky items from your car. Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use. It takes more fuel to accelerate a heavier car, and the reduction in fuel economy is greater for small cars than for larger models.

—In hot weather, park in the shade or use a windshield sunscreen to lessen heat buildup inside the car. This reduces the need for air conditioning (and thus fuel) to cool down the car.

AAA national comparison of gas prices
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