U.S. pipeline partly restarts amid panic buying

“So I think we’re going to go on a wild goose chase.”

As lines grew longer at gas stations across the Southeast on Wednesday, Colonial Pipeline announced it began reopening its fuel line six days after a ransomware attack shut down its operations... welcome news to American drivers - worried as gas stations started to run out of fuel as many ignored pleas from officials not to hoard supplies… causing shortages - and panic buying.

Tempers flared in Knightdale, North Carolina, when a driver looking for gas allegedly cut in front of another driver. And a shop in Tennessee that usually sells cans of gasoline said it had to stop.

“People were coming in and trying to buy you know five and ten cans worth of gasoline - they’re just hoarding it. And that’s the worst thing that can happen.”

More than 70% of stations in metro Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina… and Pensacola, Florida… were without gasoline on Wednesday, according to tracking firm GasBuddy.

EPA Administrator Michael Reagan is pleading with drivers to only get what they need.

“I think the folks should follow the advice of the governors and the attorney generals, which they're asking folks not to panic, not to hoard gasoline... We have some really good coordinated efforts at the federal, state and local levels. And we're working very hard to alleviate these circumstances.”

Chris Decker, professor of economics at the University of Nebraska Omaha says panic-buying can become a vicious cycle.

"Because one of the worst things you can do during a lot of news events of shortages is engage in panic-buying. We saw that last year with things like toilet paper and sanitizer. Well, that will lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. You will see those stock outages as a consequence of that elevated demand as people try to stockpile.”

Sources familiar with the Colonial's response told Reuters the company does not plan to pay the ransom demanded by the hackers who encrypted its data.

Since the pipeline shutdown and the panic buying began, the American Automobile Association said the average national gasoline price rose to above $3 per gallon… the highest since October 2014…

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