WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The recent ransomware attack on a critical East Coast pipeline has drivers wondering if it will impact gas prices and fuel supply.
Colonial Pipeline said Saturday it was hacked, causing them to halt all pipeline operations to deal with the threat.
The Georgia-based company transports gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil from refineries along the Gulf Coast through the South up to New Jersey.
However, AAA says drivers should be aware that Florida is not largely dependent on the Colonial Pipeline for gasoline.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture warned Monday against gas hoarding and panic buying.
You may hear about potential disruptions to fuel supply, sales, and pricing in Florida.@FDACS is in contact with @EPA, @ENERGY, and the fuel industry. What you can do:— Commissioner Nikki Fried (@NikkiFriedFL) May 10, 2021
❌Don’t panic-buy gas
❌Don’t hoard gas
❌Don’t form long gas station lines
✅Call 800-HELP-FLA if questions pic.twitter.com/KMWWh3BgCq
Most of Florida's fuel is delivered from the Gulf Coast refineries by ship, so experts say the state should remain well supplied despite the pipeline outage.
"I think the concern right now is people racing out to the pumps to top off their tanks. It's drivers that are currently creating a supply issue in many cities here throughout Florida," said Florida AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. "Florida is not supplied by the pipeline."
Jenkins said gas sales are about two to three times higher than normal in some states as drivers panic to fill up their tanks.
AAA said they have received some reports of gas stations experiencing some shortages in Tallahassee and Pensacola.
[Drivers] might think this is a big concern here [in Florida], but that's not necessarily the case," Jenkins said.
Gas prices are holding relatively steady this week following news that the pipeline was hacked. The average price of regular unleaded in Palm Beach County is $2.99.
Reports say Colonial Pipeline's operations could be back to normal by the weekend. However, AAA said there is currently no clear timeline on when that full restart will occur.
"The longer the pipeline is down, the greater the threat of rising gas prices," Jenkins said. "If operations are restored [soon] drivers may see very little to no impact at the pump. A lengthy downtime, like a week, would be a different story. Sunday night, gasoline futures prices were up less than a nickel."
Derren Garber, the owner of Fuel U Fast in Palm Beach County, said his company provides gas and diesel to boats and more than 3,000 businesses in South Florida.
Garber said gas prices have been on the rise the past few weeks and believes the ransomware attack is also driving prices up.
"It's trickling down and affecting our availability and our prices, but we will have fuel," Garber said.
Companies like Fuel U Fast are hoping the pipeline problem gets resolved fast so its workers and drivers won't see any long-term impacts at the pump this summer.
"We're hoping for the trend to be down a few cents rather than up a few cents daily," Garber said.
The FBI says the criminal syndicate whose ransomware was used in the attack is named DarkSide, whose members are Russian speakers. Russia has denied any involvement.
The White House released a statement Monday night that said it is "evaluating every action the Administration can take to mitigate the impact as much as possible."