How to Save Gas Until Shortage Ends, Colonial Pipeline Returns to Normal

Drivers have found themselves in long lines at gas stations after the Colonial Pipeline was hacked and amid concerns about gas shortages, there are a few things drivers can do to conserve fuel.

A cyberattack on Friday took down the Colonial Pipeline computer system, which is responsible for fuel production for large swaths of the United States. In the days since, stories have emerged of people being turned away from stations because of a lack of gas, getting into physical altercations over the limited resource and hoarding fuel, which only exacerbates the problem.

The White House has been working with Colonial on resuming normal service, which the company said hopes to happen by the end of the week. Even after service returns to normal, the Biden administration warned impacted areas could still feel a "supply crunch," so the inconveniences people are experiencing now could continue.

One obvious way of conserving gas is to walk, bike or carpool. However, that's not always feasible both because of the distance of a destination and differing schedules or routines.

For many people, a more realistic way of conserving fuel is to use cruise control on the highway to maintain a consistent speed, as is recommended by the Department of Energy. The agency pointed out that speeding increases fuel consumption and fuel economy usually decreases as a person drives faster than 50 miles per hour.

gas shortage
Amid a gas shortage because of a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, there are a number of ways people can increase the fuel efficiency of their cars. An "Out Of Service" bag covers a gas pump as cars continue line up for the chance to fill their gas tanks at a Circle K near uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday following a ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline. Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

Driving 50 miles per hour on a major highway could put a person significantly under the speed limit, potentially raising the possibility of an accident. However, obeying the speed limit and avoiding slamming on the brakes can improve a car's fuel economy by up to 30 percent at highway speeds, according to the Department of Energy.

Some drivers could also see benefits by cleaning out their cars of unnecessary items. Rooftop cargo can reduce fuel economy by up to 17 percent on the highway and increasing a car's weight by about 100 pounds—think the months-long items that have accumulated in the trunk—can also reduce fuel economy.

State Farm also recommended ensuring the vehicle has had its routine maintenance, as a well-maintained vehicle will run at its best. That includes keeping tires infrared to ideal pressure because under-inflated tires have a tendency of decreasing mileage.

While carpooling isn't always a realistic option for people, it's possible some could get better at planning their days. Since cold engines use more fuel than warm ones, both State Farm and the Department of Energy advised people to combine errands because going to the grocery store, dry cleaners and any other places before returning home where the car will sit for hours can help conserve fuel.

The FBI identified the DarkSide, a group of Russian cybercriminals, as the culprits of the disruption, but the Kremlin denied having any involvement. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Preskov told reporters on Tuesday Russia "categorically rejects" any accusation against them and criticized the U.S. for "refusing to cooperate with us in any way to counter cyber-threats."

President Joe Biden said on Monday that there is "no evidence" that Russia is involved, but said he's going to be meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

Long lines at gas stations and news about shortages have created a panic and the south appears to be taking the brunt of the consequences. Governors in North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia declared a state of emergency and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper suspended regulations to help ensure the state has enough fuel.

Colonial Pipeline has denied there's a significant shortage, but it's unclear when fuel supply will be back to normal levels. Some have raised concerns when that happens, people could be confronted with another problem in the form of rising gas prices.