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Colonial Pipeline partially shut down, this time by Ida

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 8:26 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - You may remember the shutdown months ago of the hacker-struck Colonial Pipeline that supplies nearly half the East Coast’s gasoline.

When the pipeline was shut down for a few days in May, gas stations were besieged by panicked drivers, leading to some shortages and higher prices.

Parts of the pipeline from the Gulf Coast have been shut down again, this time as a precaution as Hurricane Ida slams Louisiana.

The company called the temporary shutdown of lines between Houston and Greensboro, N.C., “a precautionary and routine safety measure.”

The company expects the pipeline to get back to full service after the storm, once it evaluates its infrastructure and executes a startup plan.

Ida has been causing other disruptions to critical infrastructure, including oil production and refineries, according to GasBuddy Head of Petroleum Analysis Patrick De Haan.

As a result, we could soon see higher gas prices again, though “motorists need not be too concerned at this point,” De Haan said.

Across the nation, the average price of gasoline had fallen 2.2 cents per gallon in the last week and GasBuddy says prices are averaging at $3.12 per gallon Monday. Analysts say the national average is down 2.9 cents per gallon from a month ago and stands 90.1 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.

“I expect the national average to rise in the neighborhood of 5-15 cents per gallon in the next couple of weeks — far smaller than the impact from Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, but with damage assessments still to come, it’s possible we see slight deviation from that,” he said.

The Colonial Pipeline shut Lines 1 and 2 as a precaution, bit “it’s highly unlikely that this will cause any long-term disruption to fuel supply like we saw months ago after the company was hacked,” he said.

“The biggest question for refineries will be the flooding — which could alter the rise in gas prices, but the odds of a massive surge in gas prices nationwide are extremely low,” he said.

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ECONOMIC IMPACT: Ida’s impact on the overall U.S. economy should be modest so long as damage estimates don’t rise sharply and refinery shutdowns are not prolonged, economists suggested. Economist Mark Zandi at Moody’s Analytics said the disruptions will likely cause him to downgrade his forecast for annual U.S. economic growth in the current quarter by a few tenths of a percentage point. But that economic loss, he said, could be reversed in the final quarter of the year as a result of rebuilding from the hurricane’s damage.

The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report