No need to panic over gas availability, especially in New York and New Jersey, experts say.
The region’s supplies of gasoline remain strong, even as gas stations in other parts of the country experience panic buying and temporary shortages in light of the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, the country’s largest fuel pipeline which sends oil from Houston, Texas to Linden, New Jersey.
Colonial Pipeline’s company admitted to paying the nearly $5 million ransom in cryptocurrency Friday to the Eastern European hackers who took down the pipeline’s computer systems, Bloomberg News reported: “The hackers, which the FBI said are linked to a group called DarkSide, specialize in digital extortion and are believed to be located in Russia or Eastern Europe.”
Colonial Pipeline Co. said operations restarted Wednesday, but may take a few days to fully restore service. After motorists across the Southeast flocked to gas stations to stock up during the shutdown, officials have urged drivers not to hoard gas and that the country’s supplies of fuel remain strong.
“The restart of the pipeline is very positive news for motorists,” said Jeanette McGee, a spokesperson for AAA, in a statement. “While impact won’t be seen immediately and motorists in affected areas can expect to see a few more days of limited fuel supply, relief is coming. Station pumps will be full of fuel in several days. This is an especially good update ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.”
Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline.
— US Consumer Product Safety Commission (@USCPSC) May 12, 2021
“So far, there is nobody that’s been giving any indication that we have an issue here in New Jersey,” said Sal Risalvato, the executive director of New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, and Automotive Association. “But I understand in the southern states, some of them are getting smacked around…I don’t know, is it because the actual supply got shut off or are people doing a panic kind of a thing? You know, if panic sets in, then it’s a different story and I don’t know how to handle that.”
Jason Bordoff, the director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said the New York and New Jersey regions don’t rely on the pipeline as much as other states because it has access to other sources of gasoline.
“The New York region will see some price impacts, as we have with, say, jet fuel for the region’s airports, but the impact on supply and potential supply shortages is not nearly as severe as it is in the Southeast because the New York region is more interconnected into the overall energy system and has more options for where it sources its gasoline and diesel from,” Bordoff said. “We have refineries in the area, which the Southeast doesn’t, and we have the ability to import gasoline and diesel by tanker into New York more easily than the Southeast.”
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority CEO Doreen Harris both said on Wednesday that there “was no indication of supply challenges or price impacts to New Yorkers as a result of the shutdown.”
AAA said the average price for a gallon of gas in New York state was $3.042, and $3.057 in New Jersey Thursday, compared to the national average price of $3.028. The increased prices are more likely the result of increased demand as more vaccinated people travel or return to their commutes to work and school commutes, with AAA forecasting gas prices to reach their highest points this summer since 2014. Even as gas prices are now increasing, they’re still comparable to prices in May 2019 and May 2018, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.
New York Attorney General Letitia James issued an alert Thursday urging people to report cases of price gouging at the pump, as state law prohibits sellers of fuel “from excessively increasing their prices during an abnormal market disruption, including disruptions caused by energy shortages,” she said in a press release.
“As New Yorkers continue to suffer the economic impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the last thing their wallets can afford is the price gouging of fuel from those seeking to unconscionably take advantage of another crisis,” James said in a statement. “To be clear, the price gouging of fuel in New York state will not be tolerated for a moment. If our office sees profiteers take advantage of consumers by boosting prices to excess levels, we will not hesitate to take legal action. Last year, the state granted our office additional authority to stop those seeking to unlawfully profit off an emergency, so we will use every tool at our disposal to stop illegal actors and secure relief for consumers who have been overcharged for gasoline.”