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Admin Moves Swiftly on Cyber Attack    05/13 06:10

   The Biden administration swung aggressively into action after a primary 
gasoline pipeline fell prey to a cyberattack -- understanding that the 
situation posed a possible series of political and economic risks.

   (AP) -- The Biden administration swung aggressively into action after a 
primary gasoline pipeline fell prey to a cyberattack -- understanding that the 
situation posed a possible series of political and economic risks.

   The pipeline shutdown was an all-hands-on-deck situation for a young 
presidency that has also had to deal with a pandemic, a recession, an influx of 
unaccompanied children at the southern border, a troop withdrawal from 
Afghanistan and high-stakes showdowns globally that carry the specter of war.

   The administration devoted the first half of the week to showcasing all the 
steps it was taking to get gas back to service stations in affected areas. It 
scrambled into action after ransom-seeking hackers on Friday shut down the 
pipeline, which delivers about 45% of the East Coast's gas. The shutdown caused 
a supply crunch and spiking prices -- all of which the administration was 
preparing to address.

   Then, hours before the Colonial Pipeline was restarted, President Joe Biden 
signaled Wednesday that there were reasons for optimism.

   "We have been in very, very close contact with Colonial Pipeline," Biden 
said. "I think you're going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours and I 
think we'll be getting that under control."

   The president followed up later Wednesday with an executive order to improve 
cybersecurity. Biden's team seized on the shutdown as an argument for approving 
the president's $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. Keeping up Biden's focus, 
the White House said the president would deliver remarks on the pipeline 
incident Thursday morning.

   Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the cyberattack was a reminder 
that infrastructure is a national security issue and investments for greater 
resilience are needed.

   "This is not an extra, this is not a luxury, this is not an option," 
Buttigieg told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. "This has to be core 
to how we secure critical infrastructure."

   The administration took a variety of steps to address the gasoline 
situation. The Department of Homeland Security issued a temporary waiver of a 
federal law overseeing maritime commerce to an individual company, not 
identified by the department, to allow the transport of additional gas and jet 
fuel between Gulf Coast and East Coast ports.

   The Transportation Department was surveying how many vessels could carry 
fossil fuels to the Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Seaboard to provide gasoline. 
Waivers were issued to expand the hours that fuel can be transported by 
roadways. The Environmental Protection Agency issued waivers on gas blends and 
other regulations to ease any supply challenges.

   The technology firm found that 28% of stations were out of fuel 
in North Carolina. In Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia, more than 16% of 
stations were without gas.

   The sudden supply crunch after Friday's hack showed the challenges that can 
pop up for a White House that must constantly respond to world events. 
Republican lawmakers were quick to criticize the administration for previously 
canceling plans to construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Biden 
had canceled its permit over risks of spills and worries that climate change 
would worsen by burning the oil sands crude that would have flowed through the 

   "The Colonial Pipeline crisis shows that we need more American energy to 
fuel our economy, not less," House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said 
Tuesday on Twitter, adding that Biden had "left our energy supply more 
vulnerable to attacks" by blocking the Keystone XL pipeline.

   The cyberattack was but one of many challenges confronting the president.

   Within just a few days, the Biden administration has also been dealt a 
disappointing monthly jobs report, a potentially worrisome increase in 
inflation and lethal violence in Israel. It is still trying to vaccinate the 
country against the coronavirus, send out hundreds of billions of dollars in 
economic aid and pass its own sweeping jobs and education agenda.

   "You have to be prepared to juggle multiple challenges, multiple crises at 
one time, and that's exactly what we're doing at this moment," White House 
press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

   Higher energy prices often have political fallout, complicating reelection 
campaigns for incumbents outside oil-producing regions. The 1979 fuel shortage 
famously crushed Jimmy Carter's presidential reelection efforts and helped 
usher in the Reagan era.

   Research published last year by the World Bank looked at 207 elections 
across 50 democracies and found an oil price spike a year before the election 
"systematically lower the odds of incumbents being reelected." The findings 
applied to both conservatives and liberals, showing a degree of pragmatism by 

   The best way for Biden to respond was probably to show that he understands 
how rising gas prices can hurt family budgets and to move quickly to help fix 
the pipeline problem.

   "It's important for the president to show empathy and recognize the position 
that the average American is in vis--vis gas prices," said Mark Jones, a 
political science professor at Rice University in Houston. "Gas prices are 
something that don't affect the elite -- and our politicians are all among the 

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