The Biden administration came into action aggressively after a major pipeline fell prey to a cyberattack, understanding that the situation entailed a number of possible political and economic risks.
The shutdown of the pipeline was a practical situation for a young presidency that has also had to deal with a pandemic, a recession, an influx of unaccompanied children on the U.S.-Mexico border, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and clashes of global participations that carry the specter of war.
The administration spent the first half of the week showing all the steps it was taking to recover the gas at service stations in the affected areas. It went into action after hackers seeking rescue closed the pipeline on Friday, providing about 45 percent of the East Coast’s gas. The shutdown led to a reduction in supply and increased prices, which the administration was preparing to address.
President Joe Biden was scheduled to comment on the pipeline incident Thursday morning, further evidence of his administration’s awareness of the political dangers associated with the shutdown and the White House’s efforts to turn the situation into a new reason to argue its infrastructure package.
Hours before the Colonial Pipeline restarted Wednesday, Biden had pointed out that there were reasons for optimism.
The president followed with an executive order to improve cybersecurity. The Biden team seized the closure as an argument to approve the president’s $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure package.
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the cyberattack reminded that infrastructure is a national security issue and that investments are needed for greater resilience.
“This is not an extra, this is not a luxury, it is not an option,” Buttigieg said. “That has to be the core of how we secure critical infrastructure.”
The Department of Homeland Security issued a temporary exemption from a federal law that oversaw maritime trade to an individual company, not identified by the government, to allow the transportation of additional gas and fuel for aircraft between Gulf Coast ports. and the East Coast.
The Department of Transportation was studying how many ships could transport fossil fuels to the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast to supply gasoline. Waivers were issued to extend the hours at which fuel can be transported by road. The Environmental Protection Agency issued waivers of gas mixtures and other regulations to facilitate any supply challenge.
Technology firm Gasbuddy.com found that 28% of stations ran out of fuel in North Carolina. In Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia, more than 16% of stations were without gas.
The sudden supply crisis after last week’s piracy showed the challenges that may arise for a White House that must constantly respond to global events.
Republican lawmakers quickly criticized the administration for previously canceling plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. Biden had canceled his permit because of risks of spills and concern that climate change would worsen by burning crude oil sands that would have flowed through the pipeline.
“The colonial pipeline crisis shows we need more American energy to fuel our economy, no less,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. He said Biden had “left our power supply more vulnerable to attacks” by blocking the Keystone XL pipeline.
The cyberattack was but one of the many challenges the president faced.
In just a few days, the Biden administration has also received a disappointing monthly report on jobs, a potentially worrying rise in inflation and lethal violence in Israel. It is still trying to vaccinate the country against coronavirus, send hundreds of billions of dollars in financial aid and approve its own work and education program.
“You have to be prepared to juggle multiple challenges and crises at once, and that’s exactly what we’re doing right now,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
Higher energy prices often have political consequences, complicating incumbent re-election campaigns outside oil-producing regions. The 1979 fuel shortage crushed Jimmy Carter’s presidential re-election efforts and helped usher in the Reagan era.
A survey published last year by the World Bank examined 207 elections in 50 democracies and found an increase in the price of oil a year before the election “that systematically reduces the chances of incumbents being re-elected.” The findings applied to both conservatives and liberals, showing a certain degree of pragmatism on the part of voters.
The best way to respond to Biden was probably to show that he understands how gas prices can rise hurting family budgets and move quickly to fix the plumbing problem.
“It’s important for the president to show empathy and recognize the position the average American has in relation to gas prices,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. it does not affect the elite, and our politicians are among the elite ”.