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May 13, 2021, 9:14 a.m. EDT

Government warns anxious gas customers: ‘Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline’

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By Andrew Keshner

A federal government agency tasked with consumer safety is urging a simple piece of advice: don’t pump gas into plastic bags.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission tweeted that safety reminder Wednesday as the national average gasoline price increased to $3 per gallon and supplies shrank in the Southeast following a ransomware attack on a crucial pipeline that supplies 45% of all fuel to the East Coast.

“We know this sounds simple, but when people get desperate they stop thinking clearly. They take risks that can have deadly consequences. If you know someone who is thinking about bringing a container not meant for fuel to get gas, please let them know it’s dangerous,” the agency said on Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -0.50% , without referencing the cyberattack.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission wasn’t aware of drivers stashing gas in bags during this week’s shortage, said spokesman Joseph Martyak. But the tweets were meant dissuade anyone from even contemplating the idea, he said. Plastic bags aren’t created to contain fuel and all it takes is one small leak or hole and then one ignition source to create a dangerous situation, Martyak noted.

People have done this in the past, Martyak noted. One image and one video of bagged-up gas that circulated on the internet Wednesday were real, but they pre-dated the cyber attack on the gas pipeline, according to the myth-busting website Snopes.com.

“What happened then could happen now — and we don’t want that to happen,” Martyak said.

The safety agency’s tweet thread make another point too.

“Sometimes when we put out a safety message like this people use it as a way to look down on others. We ask that instead you use this as an opportunity to reflect on safety in your own life,” the safety commission said in a follow-up tweet.

Colonial Pipeline, the company behind the pipeline stretching from Texas to the New York Harbor, said that it had “initiated the restart of pipeline operations” at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

However, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal, according to the company’s statement. “Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period,” the company added.

Though regions like the New York City area have ports and other pipelines to use, there are fewer alternatives in the South, experts say. It’s been less than a week, but long lines have formed at gas stations in states such as North Carolina and Tennessee .

As a whole, the nation has adequate gas supplies, according to experts. They’ve urged drivers to resist the impulse to panic buy.

68% of North Carolina gas stations were out of gas and 45% of South Carolina stations are out of it as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, a website tracking gas prices and availability.

On Wednesday, the app overtook the Coinbase /zigman2/quotes/225893452/composite COIN -1.79% app as Apple’s /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.39% most downloaded app.

Wednesday also marked the day that national average gas prices reached $3. November 2014 was the last time prices reached that level, according to AAA.

/zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite
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