The nation’s largest fuel pipeline resumed operation Wednesday in the wake of a cyberhacking attack, but deliveries may not return to normal for days, meaning the shutdown’s impact on gas prices won’t fade immediately.
And that means the ripple effect here in Pennsylvania, and its duration, also is uncertain.
AAA Mid-Atlantic says typically, drivers can expect the average price of gas will continue to rise as we head into the Memorial Day weekend and the busy summer driving season.
Northeastern Pennsylvania drivers are seeing a jump at the pump as gas averages have increased at least eight cents in many areas week over week.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area average price on Wednesday was $3.10 per gallon, AAA said, up from $3.02 a week earlier and $1.95 at the same time last year.
For the first time since Oct. 31, 2014, the national gas price average has hit the dreaded $3 per gallon mark. The national price has jumped five cents since Friday and is $1.15 more than this time last year.
A major factor in the jump at the pump has been last week’s cybersecurityon the Colonial Pipeline, the largest refined product pipeline in the U.S., which delivers fuel products from Houston to New York Harbor, and accounts for 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast.
The national average will likely continue to climb this week in reaction, even though the shutdown has ended.
The nation’s top 10 largest weekly increases: Michigan (+15 cents), Kentucky (+12 cents), Florida (+10 cents), Delaware (+10 cents), Indiana (+10 cents), West Virginia (+9 cents), Utah (+9 cents), Texas (+9 cents), New Jersey (+8 cents) and Pennsylvania (+7 cents).
On the week, the national gas price average jumped six cents.
“This shutdown will have implications on both gasoline supply and prices, but the impact will vary regionally,” said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Areas including Mississippi, Tennessee and the east coast from Georgia into Delaware are most likely to experience limited fuel availability and price increases, as early as this week. These states may see prices increase three to seven cents this week.”
The longer the pipeline is offline, the larger the impact on the east coast, Tidwell said. However, foreign gasoline imports and other pipelines can supplement Northeastern supply. Other areas of the country will see little impact.
While there is sufficient gasoline supply in the U.S. (235.8 million barrels), other pipelines and the Department of Transportation’s temporary hours-of-service exemption for tanker trucks transporting gasoline and other fuels, will be able to ease the strain, but not resolve the issues caused by the pipeline interruption. Once the pipeline is up and running, there could still be residual delays as it takes about 15-18 days for fuel to flow from Texas to New York.
Tidwell said AAA will continue to monitor the latest news concerning the Colonial Pipeline.