If you live in the eastern United States and notice the price of gasoline jumping over the next few days, you can thank a group of Russian hackers who call themselves DarkSide. Though they deny that they're the culprits, ransomware with DarkSide's signature all over it was at the heart of a cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline last Friday, even to the point of being coded not to attack computers which have Russian as their default language. The attack ultimately shut down the company's Texas-to-New Jersey line, the largest pipeline in North America. That pipeline delivers roughly 45 percent of the east coast's diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel.
Colonial are confident that the pipeline will be fully operational by the end of this week. "The question now,' says Bloomberg, "is whether regional inventories held in storage tanks are enough to satisfy demand while Colonial works on resuming operations." To that end, the White House declared a state of emergency on Sunday, which according to NBC,
[L]ifts regulations on drivers carrying fuel in 17 states across the South and eastern United States, as well as the District of Columbia, allowing them to drive between fuel distributors and local gas stations on more overtime hours and less sleep than federal restrictions normally allow.
Hopefully easing those restrictions will help, and oil and gas shipments -- via truck or ship -- will stave off real shortages. But it's worth noting that, even with a shut down of such short duration, Gulf Coast refineries, concerned about running out of storage capacity, are preparing to cut back production, meaning that this could have implications for the price of oil for some time to come.
In any event, this episode should serve to remind us that pipelines are central to the our everyday lives. Kirsten Gillibrand was brutally mocked recently for claiming that basically every plank in the Democratic platform is infrastructure (and could therefore be included in an infrastructure bill), but this is the very definition of infrastructure, and vital infrastructure at that.
Let's not forget it.