By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gas prices are expected to climb nationwide after a critical pipeline shut down.

Long lines are plaguing gas stations throughout the Southeast. A cyber-attack forced Colonial Pipeline to turn off its pipeline for six days. It’s back online as of Wednesday evening.

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However, hundreds, if not thousands of gas stations are out of gas completely. That’s mainly due to drivers panic-buying gas over fears of the supply shortage versus the actual shortage itself.

Delivery driver Steve Sigel filled up his tank Wednesday in Wayzata.

“It’s, you know, kind of worrisome. I think about people trying to get to their jobs, trying to get to work,” Sigel said. “Like I’m a delivery driver. What if I couldn’t get gas?”

As of Wednesday evening, 71% percent of gas stations in North Caroline have no fuel. Around half of the stations are empty in South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. And despite the Colonial Pipeline being back online, experts said fully resupplying those stations could take weeks.

(credit: CBS)

WCCO spoke about the situation with Patrick De Haan, lead petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

“Never have I seen our gas tracker track this many states with outages,” De Haan said.

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The good news for Minnesotans is any price increase will be minimal — a few cents at most.

“This is a pipeline, this isn’t a refinery. If it was a refinery that went down, we’d be talking about ripple effects and price increases,” De Haan said. “It highlights vulnerabilities that now need to be discussed at the very highest levels.”

The average price per gallon nationwide has reached $3 — a number not seen since October of 2014. Minnesota average price sits about 20-cents lower.

The steady increase since last year’s pandemic lows is noticeable, but some drivers feel a pipeline getting hacked to the point of shutting down is a bigger concern.

“When they’re attacking infrastructure that ripples into the entire economy and everyday normal citizens’ lives, like, you know I hope that that’s a wakeup call for the people in charge that we’ve got to get on top of cyber security,” Sigel said.

This time last year, the average price per gallon in Minnesota was $1.71. Experts said the increase since that time is just a side effect of a recovering economy.

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On May 12, 2019, the average price in the state was about $2.70. In 2018, it was just above $2.70.

Jeff Wagner