What's happening at US gas stations

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 5:44 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021
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4:17 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

The Colonial Pipeline is back in action, but many stations are still out of gas. Here's what we know.

A Royal Dutch Shell gas station displays a price of $0, indicating the station is out of gas, in Marietta, Georgia, on Thursday, May 13. 
A Royal Dutch Shell gas station displays a price of $0, indicating the station is out of gas, in Marietta, Georgia, on Thursday, May 13.  Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Colonial Pipeline is back in action after a six-day shutdown caused by a ransomware attack — but widespread gas station outages in the Southeast could linger for days.

Here are the latest updates on the hack, the shutdown and how it's affecting gas stations across the Southeast:

  • Pipeline operations are back: The Colonial Pipeline launched the restart of its operations Wednesday evening. The pipeline will move as much gasoline, diesel and jet fuel "as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal," the company said.
  • But some gas stations are still out: Despite the restart, a significant percentage of gas stations in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina are without fuel, according to GasBuddy, which tracks fuel demand, prices and outages. That's because the 5,500-mile pipeline flows at just 5 miles per hour, meaning it could take days or even weeks for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to flow through to most places and refill nearly empty storage.
  • Don't panic and be patient, officials say: President Biden urged Americans to keep calm and avoid panic-buying fuel as Colonial Pipeline works to fully restore its pipeline operations. He sought to assure Americans that gasoline supplies would improve by the weekend and early next week. US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg also said that it will "take a few days" for gas supply to get back to normal.
  • US says Moscow are not behind the hack: Biden said he does not believe the Russian government was behind the cyberattack that shut down the pipeline, but he said Moscow must do more to stop such attacks coming from Russia.
12:49 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Biden says he is confident that Russian government was not involved in pipeline attack

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Source: Pool
Source: Pool

President Biden emphasized that the US does not believe the Russian government was involved in the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack.

“But we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia. … We have been in direct communications with Moscow about the imperative for responsible countries to take decisive action against these ransomware networks. We're also going to pursue a measure to disrupt their ability to operate. And our Justice Department has launched a new task force dedicated to prosecuting ransomware attackers to the full extent of the law,” Biden said. 

When asked if he was confident Russian President Putin was not involved, Biden responded:

“I am confident that I've read the report of the FBI accurately. And they say they were not, he was not, the government was not.” 

Biden added that he expects to speak with Putin about the international community setting up standards for these sort of attacks. 

5:44 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Biden outlines 4 steps his administration is taking to mitigate gas shortages across the country

President Biden outlined steps his administration is taking to mitigate gas shortages and protect Americans from price gouging following a ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline.

"These steps are temporary, but they'll remain in place until full service is fully restored. This is a whole of government response to get more fuel more quickly to where it's needed and to limit the pain being felt by American customers," Biden said in White House remarks today.

Biden noted four main steps as part of his administration's response:

  1. Biden said his administration is relaxing "rules for pipeline operators to provide flexibility for emergency personnel to help manually get portions of the pipeline up and running earlier this week."
  2. Over the weekend, Biden said his administration "reviewed and worked with a company to get a portion of the pipeline system from North Carolina to Maryland to operate under manual control and deliver its existing inventory." Biden noted that his administration put "in place emergency orders that lifts the hours restrictions, and allowed states to lift weight restrictions for tank truck drivers to be on the road. This allows those drivers to work more, and carry more fuel, to the affected regions."
  3. Biden said the Environmental Protection Agency issued "a targeted 20-day waiver of standards in several states to give fuel suppliers more flexibility to use available fuels where they're needed, which will boost the fuel supply."
  4. The President said that as part of an effort to "use every possible means to accelerate fuel deliveries," last night he granted a waiver of the Jones Act to fuel suppliers. "This allows non-US flag vessels to transport refined fuel products from the gulf of Mexico to affected areas," Biden said. The President said his administration would grant additional waivers if necessary.

12:44 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Biden urges Americans: "Don't panic"

President Biden urged Americans to keep calm and avoid panic-buying fuel as Colonial Pipeline works to fully restore its pipeline operations after a ransomware attack.

"Don't panic, number one. I know seeing lines at the pumps, or gas stations with no gas, can be extremely stressful. But this is a temporary situation," he said.

Biden sought to assure Americans that gasoline supplies would improve by the weekend and early next week.

"Do not get more gas than you need in the next few days," he said, adding that "gasoline supply is coming back online, and panic buying will only slow the process."

The President vowed to work with governors to stop any price gouging practices. In South and North Carolina, officials said they received nearly 1,000 reports of price gouging amid the gas shortage. 

"Do not, I repeat, do not try to take advantage of consumers during this time... Nobody should be using this situation for financial gain. That's what the hackers are trying to do. That's what they're about. Not us. That's not who we are," he said.

12:38 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

It's "not like flicking on a light switch," Biden says as fuel slowly starts to flow again

From CNN's Elise Hammond

President Joe Biden said it is going to take a few days for gas supply to return to normal, but most regions could see operations fully up-and-running by this weekend, continuing into next week.

Biden said while the pipeline is running, it will be a slow process for people to feel it at the pumps.

"This morning Colonial reported that fuel is beginning to flow to a majority of the markets that they service, and they should be reaching full operational capacity as we speak – as I speak to you right now. That is good news," the President said on Thursday.

"This is not like flicking on a light switch. This pipeline is 5,500 miles long. It had never been fully shut down in its entire history," he added.
12:32 p.m. ET, May 13, 2021

NOW: Biden delivers remarks on Colonial Pipeline hack and gas shortages 

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Mary Kay Mallonee

Pool
Pool

President Biden is speaking from the White House on the ransomware attack that caused a six-day shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline. 

The pipeline launched the restart of its operations Wednesday evening, but operators warned it will take several days for service to return to normal.

Biden signed an executive order Wednesday meant to better protect the nation from cyberattacks, but even as he signed it, the White House acknowledged more will need to be done to prevent the type of hack that affected the Colonial Pipeline.

That attack, which temporarily shut down the pipeline supplying fuel to the eastern United States this week, caused some gas stations to run dry and gas prices to spike as Americans flocked to the pumps in a spurt of panic buying.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday night that there’s "an end in sight for the supply disruptions."

“As Colonial Pipeline works to safely and fully resume operations over the next few days, we will stay in close contact with the company and will continue to offer any assistance needed—as we have done since the outset of this shutdown on Friday," Psaki said in a statement.

She said that as supplies return to normal, the Biden administration will continue its “whole-of-government effort to mitigate any challenges, including the swift steps we’ve taken to boost gas supply in affected States.”

CNN's Matt Egan and Clare Duffy contributed reporting to this post. 

11:55 a.m. ET, May 13, 2021

North Carolina will investigate more than 600 price gouging complaints, attorney general says

From CNN's Elise Hammond

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said the state will investigate all 622 price gouging complaints it has received in about two days.

As of this morning, a staggering 71% of the gas stations in North Carolina were reporting outages in fuel, according to GasBuddy.

"Each complaint will cause an investigation and we will do that investigation. If if I find price gougers, I'll hold them accountable," Stein told CNN.

He said the state's price gouging law comes into effect whenever the governor declares a state of emergency.

Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Monday evening, a move that allowed him to temporarily suspend some fuel regulations in a bid to ensure adequate supply.

"What it prohibits is sellers taking advantage of people's desperation to make a quick buck. So if a gas station has their supply and underground storage tank that they pay X dollars on, they can't raise the price on that just because folks are desperate," Stein said about the price gouging law.

He said the exception is if sellers pay more to resupply the fuel. They are allowed to pass those costs on to consumers, according to Stein.

9:53 a.m. ET, May 13, 2021

Gas supply will take a few days to be "fully back to normal," Buttigieg says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said that it will "take a few days" for gas supply to get back to normal after the Colonial Pipeline launched a restart following a ransomware attack that prompted a six-day shutdown.

“All of the indications that we have seen so far are very encouraging. The product is moving, but it moves slowly — about five miles an hour in some cases. And so it will take a few days for things to be fully back to normal,” Buttigieg said to CNN's Jim Sciutto.

He encouraged people to stop hoarding and panic-buying gasoline.

"We are seeing issues where there might not have been issues otherwise because people rushed to the pump and took more than they needed," Buttigieg said.

"We have all the supply we need as a country. We have a temporary issue in terms of getting it to where it needs to be, and that's why we're taking these other measures with things like trucks to help compensate all the pipelines getting back up to speed," he added.

The country will have to take more policy steps to ensure that private companies are not vulnerable to cyberattacks, Buttigieg said.

Watch:

9:57 a.m. ET, May 13, 2021

The Colonial Pipeline is back in action — but gas flows at just 5 miles per hour

From CNN's Matt Egan

Colonial Pipeline storage tanks are seen in Woodbridge, New Jersey, on Monday, May 10.
Colonial Pipeline storage tanks are seen in Woodbridge, New Jersey, on Monday, May 10. AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey

It could take a few days for gas supply to get back to normal in part because of how slow fuel flows through the Colonial Pipeline, experts say.

The 5,500-mile pipeline flows at just 5 miles per hour, meaning it could take days or even weeks for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to flow through to most places and refill nearly empty storage, Platts analysts said.

It carries fuel from refineries along the Gulf Coast to New Jersey. It provides nearly half the gasoline and diesel consumed by the East Coast, making it perhaps America's most important pipeline.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the Colonial Pipeline indicated Thursday morning that the restart of the pipeline "went well" overnight, adding "things will return to normal by the end of the weekend," she wrote on Twitter.