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‘Don’t panic’: White House tells Americans to stay calm over fuel crisis as DeSantis blames Biden for not ‘stepping up’

About 24.8 per cent of North Carolina gas stations are out of fuel

Graeme Massie
New York
Wednesday 12 May 2021 19:39 BST
DeSantis declares state of emergency due to Colonial Pipeline cyberattack

The White House has urged Americans to stay calm over the fuel crisis as Florida governor Ron DeSantis blamed Joe Biden for not “stepping up.”

The federal government says it has now expanded an emergency fuel waiver to 12 states and the District of Columbia, allowing them to sell off-spec gasoline to alleviate shortages caused by the ransomware hack on the Colonial pipeline.

And the Department of Transportation also issued a new order allowing trucks to carry overweight loads of fuels on highways to increase supply along Colonial’s route.

But Mr DeSantis, who is expected to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, hit out at the White House over the cyberattack on the privately-owned pipeline.

“I think this is something that demands really serious federal attention. This was essentially a cyberattack on critical infrastructure in our country,” Mr DeSantis said in Jacksonville on Tuesday night.

“You can’t just say it’s a private pipeline therefore, we’re not going to be involved. No, the US government needs to be involved. They need to help mitigate this.

“My fear is you have these gas shortages, it’s going to cause a lot of problems for people, just the convenience of life, but also for our economy.”

Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Wednesday that the impact of the winter storms in Texas, followed by the Colonial hack should be a “wake-up call” about the need to improve US infrastructure.

“We have had, you could argue, two major wake-up call experiences, one in Texas and now one here, each with a different cause, but both reminding us of the work we have to do as a country,” he said.

He also rejected a suggestion that the hack on Colonial, which has taken down 45 per cent of the fuel supply on the east coast, meant the US needed to simply build more pipelines.

“This is an issue of how a cyberattack impacted a pipeline that is there, I am not sure it really speaks to the number or quantity of pipelines or their throughput,” he said.

“I do think it reminds us that we need to make sure that we have the most resilient and flexible infrastructure for the future.”

Mr Buttigieg also responded to some Americans hoarding gasoline in plastic bags as the shortage’s impact is felt.

“This is a time to be sensible and to be safe, of course we understand the concern in areas where people are encountering temporary supply disruptions,” he said.

“But hoarding does not make things better, and under no circumstances should gasoline ever be put into anything but a vehicle directly or an approved container, and that of course remains true no matter what else is going on.”

Earlier Michael Regan, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, urged Americans not to panic over the tightening of fuel supplies.

“I think that folks should follow the advice of the governors and attorneys general, they are asking folks not to panic not to hoard gasoline, and to watch for the updates coming from the federal government,” said Mr Regan.

Motorists got involved in a brawl on Tuesday at an overcrowded gas station, as Americans across the Southeast experienced fuel shortages and outages amid the Colonial Pipeline shutdown.

Video footage showed a long line of cars waiting at a gas station in Knightdale, North Carolina, to refuel. 

One woman driving a Honda Accord then attempted to cut the line but was denied entrance by another vehicle.

Out of frustration, the woman appeared to get out of her vehicle and spit on the male driver who refused to let her cut in. This appeared to prompt the man to get out of his vehicle and spit on the woman. The pair then allegedly entered into a brawl, which resulted in the man getting his shirt torn.

The Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline has been shut down for the sixth day following a ransomware attack that was reported on Friday. The pipeline runs about 5,500 miles from Texas to New Jersey, transporting more than 100 million gallons of fuel per day.

As of Wednesday morning, 24.8 per cent of North Carolina, 15.4 of Georgia, 15 per cent of Virginia, and 13.4 per cent of South Carolina gas stations were completely out of gasoline, according to data compiled by GasBuddy.

Outages were even worse when getting into the major cities of these states, with GasBuddy reporting 60 per cent of Atlanta and 71 per cent of metro Charlotte reporting complete outages of fuel at their gas stations. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have called the situation a “gas crisis” and have requested that all non-essential travel be avoided.

Panic buying has likely led to shortages at fuel stations and price hikes across the East Coast, given the US currently has a surplus of gasoline and oil supply due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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