The nation’s largest fuel pipeline may officially be back in service, but much of the Southeast was still awaiting relief Thursday from the panic buying that cleaned out more than half the gas stations in Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas.

Colonial Pipeline restarted operations Wednesday night and said all markets should expect product by midday Thursday after a ransomware hack — thought to be the biggest known cyberattack on U.S. energy infrastructure — forced it offline last week. But the Alpharetta, Ga.-based company warned that it could be a few days before kinks in the supply chain are worked out.

Panic buying will only extend the shortages, President Biden warned during a Thursday update on the fuel situation. The restart is “not like flicking on a light switch,” Biden said, adding that he expects a “region-by-region return to normalcy beginning this weekend and continuing into next week.”

Despite warnings from government officials and experts, panicked drivers have drained more than 17,000 stations throughout the Southeast, including many that would not otherwise have been affected by the pipeline hack. The heightened demand also pushed the national average for a gallon of gas to $3.02, its highest level since 2014 according to AAA.

Some signs of improvement surfaced overnight in Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh, which were among the hardest-hit metro areas. But as of Thursday morning, more than 70 percent of the stations in North Carolina remained dry, and states as far apart as Delaware and Kentucky were feeling the artificial crunch, according to Patrick De Haan, oil analyst at GasBuddy. The panic has driven U.S. gas demand up more than 11 percent so far this week, De Haan tweeted.

On Wednesday, Biden signed an executive order aimed at shoring up the federal government’s digital defenses to guard against future attacks like the one that tied up Colonial Pipeline.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • President Biden said Thursday that the FBI believes that the Russian government was not behind the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, rather it was “criminals” living in Russia.
  • Watch President Biden’s remarks on the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack and subsequent fuel shortages.
  • The economy was already enduring some adjustments as it reopens from the pandemic. But here’s how the gas shortage impacted it and why experts say you shouldn’t panic just yet.
  • How has the gas shortage impacted you? Tell the Post.
5:46 p.m.
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Biden says fuel ‘beginning to flow’ as administration struggles to contain political damage from shortage

President Biden on Thursday urged anxious Americans not to panic and rush to stockpile gasoline, seeking to reassure the country that a severe fuel shortage that has gripped the Southeast will probably be resolved in coming days.

“Gasoline supply is coming back online, and panic buying will only slow the process,” Biden warned. Although fuel from a once-stalled pipeline is “beginning to flow” again, Biden said, many areas “will not feel the effects at the pump immediately.”

The restart is “not like flicking on a light switch,” Biden said, adding that he expects a “region-by-region return to normalcy beginning this weekend and continuing into next week.”

Biden’s remarks came amid a fierce political showdown over his handling of the situation. The administration has struggled this week to contain the shortage, prompting Republicans to open a new line of attack against him on an issue that has long been fraught with political peril for the party that controls the White House.

4:38 p.m.
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U.S. gas prices edge higher amid spike in demand

A man-made gasoline shortage in the Southeast has jacked up fuel demand and pushed prices to highs not seen since 2014.

Gasoline demand is up more than 11 percent week-to-date, according to Patrick De Haan, an oil analyst at GasBuddy. The average price for a gallon of gasoline was $3.02 according to AAA, up 8 cents from last week.

Despite repeated warnings against panic buying from experts and government officials, anxious consumers have drained more than 17,000 stations across the Southeast, even in locations that would not otherwise have been affected by the hack of the pipeline operator.

Crude prices, meanwhile, appeared headed on Thursday for their biggest decline since April. Shortly before noon, West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. oil benchmark, was trading at $64.19 per barrel, down nearly 2.9 percent. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was down more than 2.5 percent to $67.56 per barrel.

The Colonial Pipeline, which supplies the East Coast with 45 percent of its fuel, was taken offline Friday after a hacker group known as DarkSide infiltrated the Georgia-based company’s servers and encrypted its data, demanding payment to restore access.

The hack did not directly affect pipeline operations, and the company announced Thursday that its operations would be fully restored by midday.

4:27 p.m.
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More than 17,000 gas station outages now reported

According to user-reported data on the app GasBuddy, more than 17,000 gas stations across southeastern states were dry Thursday morning as panic buying exacerbated shortages. That’s up from Wednesday afternoon, when around 12,000 stations were dry.

High rates of outages remained most concentrated in the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia. More than 70 percent of gas stations in North Carolina were out of gas Thursday morning, according to GasBuddy.

4:08 p.m.
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Mayorkas issues Jones Act waiver to aid fuel transport

The Department of Homeland Security has authorized one non-American shipping company to aid U.S. ships in the transport of gasoline and jet fuel to help alleviate shortages in the Southeast.

The temporary waiver of the Jones Act was enacted late Wednesday by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Per his statement, just one company will be able to join the American ships that transport supplies from ports on the Gulf Coast to the East Coast.

The Jones Act is a federal law overseeing maritime commerce that allows for only ships built, owned, operated and crewed by Americans to transport goods between U.S. ports. It’s meant to protect national security but has been waived during natural disasters or other emergencies.

“The decision to approve the waiver was made after careful consideration and consultation with interagency partners across the federal government,” Mayorkas said. “The Departments of Transportation, Energy, and Defense were consulted in order to assess the justification for the waiver request and ensure the approval of the waiver is in the interest of national defense.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the move signals that “an end in sight” for the supply disruptions rippling across the Southeast, constricting fuel.

3:50 p.m.
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The 1973 and 1979 gas shortages that wreaked havoc in America

This week’s fuel shortage sparked by a shuttered pipeline and panic buying caused alarm across the Southeast, but it’s worth revisiting the pair of gasoline crises that bookended the “Me Decade.”

To fully grasp the impact of the 1973 and 1979 shortages, contemporary readers must journey into that era’s psyche. Meg Jacobs, a Princeton University historian who chronicled the tumultuous time, described the post-World War II scene as a golden age of highways, shopping malls and suburban sprawl. An energy emergency was not in the cards.

“The notion that Americans were going to run out of gas was both new and completely terrifying. It came on so suddenly,” said Jacobs, author of “Panic at the Pump: The Energy Crisis and The Transformation of American Politics in the 1970s.” “At the same time, our cars were the size of living rooms.”

3:49 p.m.
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FAQ: How the Colonial Pipeline hack affected gas prices and supply

The cyberattack that shut down a major U.S. pipeline induced fuel shortages across much of the Southeast and highlighted cybersecurity weaknesses in the nation’s energy infrastructure.

Colonial Pipeline, which supplies the East Coast with 45 percent of its fuel, paused its service after a hacker group known as DarkSide broke into its servers and demanded money to restore access.

Here are some frequently asked questions about shortages, and when they might end.

3:45 p.m.
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Buttigieg calls hack a ‘wake-up call’ on cybersecurity

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the Colonial Pipeline hack a “wake-up call” on the nation’s vulnerability to cyberattacks.

Speaking during a Thursday appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” he said the attack demonstrated a need to ensure “that we are harder targets for these kinds of cyber actions.”

“I think for many Americans this has been a wake-up call on how actors anywhere in the world could impact us right here at home,” Buttigieg said. “And when you look at our political framework, our laws, a lot of them were not written for the cyber era.”

He praised Biden’s Wednesday signing of an executive order aimed at strengthening the federal government’s digital defenses. The order comes at an important time, he said, and is “part of the bigger picture” of shoring up those defenses.

In the short term, the federal government has handled the crisis through such steps as issuing temporary weight limit waivers on tank trucks, Buttigieg said. He added that the comprehensive government response has “really paid off.”

3:17 p.m.
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Biden to address the nation on Colonial Pipeline situation

Biden is expected to update the nation Thursday on progress surrounding the Colonial Pipeline, which was restored to service Wednesday night.

Although government and industry officials said the nation had plenty of fuel, nervous drivers clogged gas stations around the eastern United States and created shortages in parts or all of 11 states. At least 12,000 gas stations reported being completely empty, and the squeeze pushed the price of a gallon past $3, its highest in six years.

The Biden administration has taken several steps to mitigate pain at the pump in recent days. The Transportation Department relaxed rules on fuel transport to allow truck drivers to haul overweight loads and pull longer shifts. The Environmental Protection Agency issued waivers to allow retailers in affected states to sell gasoline that wouldn’t ordinarily meet regulatory requirements. And the Department of Homeland Security announced late Wednesday that it was issuing a “temporary and targeted” Jones Act waiver to an individual company to help ease supply-chain tensions.

“President Biden and the White House will monitor the situation closely in the coming days, and continue to urge Americans to just purchase what they need, and not hoard fuel, as supply is restored,” the White House said Thursday in a statement.

The president is tentatively scheduled to speak about the situation around noon Eastern time, when Colonial expects to have its system fully operational.

On Wednesday, Biden also signed an executive order aimed at shoring up the federal government’s digital defenses. The order directs the Commerce Department to craft cybersecurity standards for companies that sell software services to the federal government — a move that officials say they hope will ripple across the private sector nationally and globally and improve cybersecurity for critical systems.

2:56 p.m.
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Colonial Pipeline: Operations will be fully restored by noon

Colonial Pipeline announced Thursday that the flow of fuel has resumed for most of its network from Houston to New Jersey and that it expects to be fully online by noon Eastern.

The pipeline, which delivers gasoline as well as diesel and jet fuel, was downed by a ransomware attack last week, leading to fuel shortages and setting off waves of panic buying.

“Colonial Pipeline has made substantial progress in safely restarting our pipeline system and can report that product delivery has commenced in a majority of the markets we service,” company spokesman Eric Abercrombie said in a statement. “By mid-day today, we project that each market we service will be receiving product from our system.”

Because fuel travels at just a few miles per hour, it will still take time to restock gas stations across the southeastern United States.

Colonial Pipeline announced Wednesday evening that it was restarting operations and had said on its website that it would “take several days for the product delivery pipeline to return to normal.”

The pipeline sections that remain out of commission are near Birmingham, Ala.; Selma, N.C.; Baltimore; and Virginia. One of two Colonial pipes running through Virginia is already operational. Both pipes running through Virginia are “mixed” lines, meaning they can carry gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

2:51 p.m.
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Biden administration tries to counter GOP attacks on gasoline shortage

President Biden has struggled this week to contain an escalating gasoline shortage in the Southeast, prompting Republicans to open a new line of attack against him on an issue that has long been fraught with political peril for the party that controls the White House.

In Congress, Republicans seized on Biden’s moves to transition away from fossil fuels, suggesting it imperils the country’s energy security. On Fox News, conservative hosts have blamed the president for rising prices at the pump and long lines of cars snaking around gas stations, with one dubbing it “Biden’s gas crisis.” And in midterm battleground states where gas is running low, Republican leaders have panned Biden’s response.

White House officials — sensitive to how quickly concerns about gas can become full-blown political crises — have aggressively sought to showcase their efforts to ease the shortage, which was triggered by a cyberattack that forced a major pipeline to suspend service. They’ve enlisted Cabinet secretaries to explain the response in front of TV cameras and brief local officials; they’ve issued a flurry of written updates throughout the week; and they’ve touted their decisions to relax restrictions to boost gas delivery by ground transportation.

On Wednesday evening, Colonial Pipeline announced plans to restart operations after discussions with the Biden administration. But the company said it could take several days to resolve the problems that have plagued some states with higher fuel prices and gas stations that have run dry, keeping pressure on Biden in the interim.