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'Don't panic': Biden urges drivers not to hoard gasoline as Colonial Pipeline restarts

President Joe Biden
Posted at 8:53 AM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 12:57:11-04

President Joe Biden on Thursday attempted to reassure Americans that the supply of gasoline in the southeast would soon return to normal following the restart of the Colonial Pipeline.

The pipeline, which delivers gasoline from Texas through the southeast and up the eastern seaboard, restarted operations around 5 p.m. on Wednesday. The pipeline went offline on Friday, when the company that operates the pipeline experienced a ransomware attack.

The shutdown has led to a gasoline shortage in parts of the southeast U.S. — a shortage that was worsened when some in the region bought extra gasoline in a panic. The lack of supply has caused gas prices in the southeast to spike to as much as $7 a gallon in some places.

Biden noted Thursday that while fuel is now flowing through the pipeline, it may take some time to get the system back to full capacity.

"It's going to take some time, and there may be some hiccups along the way,” Biden said. “We should see a region-by-region return to normalcy by this weekend.”

Biden also noted that in the meantime, his administration has temporarily suspended regulations on the transport of gasoline in the hopes of restoring supplies in the southeast.

He also urged drivers in the region to refrain from hoarding gasoline.

"Do not get more gas than you need in the next few days,” Biden said. “Panic buying will only slow the process."

The president also warned gas station owners that those who participate in price gouging will be prosecuted.

"Do not, I repeat, do not try to take advantage of consumers during this time," Biden said. "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."

The FBI says the criminal syndicate whose ransomware was used in the attack is named DarkSide, whose members are Russian speakers. Russia denies any involvement.

During his address on Thursday, Biden said that intelligence reports indicated that the hackers "live in Russia," but that the Russian government was not involved. He also specifically noted that he did not believe Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the hack.

"I am confident that I've read the report of the FBI accurately, and they say he was not (involved)," Biden said.

On Thursday morning, Bloomberg reported that the company that operates the pipeline paid $5 million in order to regain access to its system. Biden said he would not not comment on whether those reports were accurate.

While the FBI has been investigating that strain of malware since October, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology Anne Neuberger said during a press briefing on Monday that the "intent" of the group — whether financial or a deliberate attack on U.S. infrastructure — is still unknown.