Over the last few days, filling up a car with fuel has been easier said than done for vast swathes of the USA. A cyber attack last Friday shut down the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 50 per cent of the East Coast’s fuel. Although it was back up and running by Wednesday, the operators said it’ll take a few days for supplies to return to normal.
In the meantime, motorists have been panic buying fuel, making the situation worse. With tensions running high, one video showed a scuffle breaking out at one petrol station, and another depicted a bafflingly dumb fill-up involving plastic bags. In the latter, a woman can be seen filling a bag with fuel, double-bagging when the first one splits, spilling petrol all over the place.
One Twitter upload of the footage had clocked over three million views at the time of writing, but it’s unrelated to the current shortages - the video seems to have first emerged in 2019. Another image doing the rounds this week, involving several plastic bags of fuel stuffed in a car boot, is thought to have been first uploaded the same year. Regardless, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has warned people not to purchase and store petrol this way.
“Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline,” it said in a series of short and to-the-point Tweets on Wednesday, adding, “Use only containers approved for fuel”. The account went on to warn about the dangers of handling petrol around open flames.
The main motive behind the cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline is thought to have been extortion. The shortages it caused lead to a hefty increase in fuel prices, which have risen to their highest level in seven years, having already been climbing as demand recovers from the slump caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The average pump price is now around $3 per (US) gallon. While beside the point, that’ll still sound like a shockingly low figure to readers here in the UK, where considerably higher fuel taxes mean the equivalent of $1.80 per litre is charged.