Two people filling up several cans of gas during the 2021 U.S. East Coast Gas Shortage.

2021 U.S. East Coast Gas Shortage

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Updated May 17, 2021 at 03:12PM EDT by Philipp.

Added May 14, 2021 at 09:43AM EDT by Philipp.

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2021 United States East Coast Gas Shortage refers to a shortage of gas caused by the panic hoarding that followed a cyberattack on a major pipeline carrying fuel to the Southeastern U.S. The shortage, which affected gas stations along the East Coast of America, became a viral subject of discussions and memes, with two pieces of old footage of people storing gas in plastic bags being mispresented as current events and widely circulated.


Colonial Pipeline Cyberattack

On May 6th, 2021, members of the cybercriminal organization DarkSide stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data from Colonial Pipeline, an American oil pipeline system that originates in Houston, Texas and terminates at the Port of New York and New Jersey.[1][2] On May 7th, 2021, the intruders launched a malware attack on the company, locking down its computers with ransomware.

On the same day, Colonial Pipeline responded by shutting down all pipeline operations and paying the requested amount of $5 million (approximately 75 Bitcoin). On May 9th, U.S. President Joe Biden declared a state of emergency. On May 12th, Colonial Pipeline reported that it had begun restarting pipeline operations.[3]

Gas Price Spikes, Increased Demand and Shortages

Between May 10th and 12th, a number of news outlets reported on spikes in the price of gas, lines at gas stations caused by the spikes, and reports and shortages caused by the increased demand.[4][5]

On May 10th, a photograph of two people filling gas containers at a gas station and packing them into a trunk of a car went viral on Facebook[7][8] and Twitter[9] (authorship unknown, shown below).



On May 11th, a photograph of a car trunk filled with bags of gas taken in Mexico in March 2019[10] (shown below, left and center) and a video of a woman filling a plastic bag with gas taken in Houston, Texas in December 2019,[11] (shown below, right) gained spread after being mispresented as taken in May 2021.

| ... @shOoObz I'm crying at how every time something happens, Americans turn into the cast of the office 9:52 PM · May 11, 2021 · Twitter for iPhone

On May 11th, Twitter[12] user @shOoObz posted the photograph, mispresenting it as a current event, with the tweet gaining over 21,000 retweets and 147,300 likes. On the same day, Twitter[13] user @FiendishlyYours posted and mispresented the video, with their post gaining over 4 million views, 11,500 retweets and 42,900 likes.

On May 12th, 2021, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission tweeted[14] "Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline," with the tweet gaining over 19,400 retweets and 71,900 likes (shown below).

SAFET PRODUCT US Consumer Product Safety Commission @USCPSC NITED STATES Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline. 10:09 AM · May 12, 2021 · Twitter Web App COMMISSION

On May 12th, Snopes[11] reported that the two viral pieces of footage which depicted people storing gas in plastic bags were filmed in previous years.

Online Reactions

The viral spread of the 2019 photograph reposted by @shOoObz, the PSA issued by the Product Safety Commission prompted and news article about price spikes and possible shortages resulted in multiple memes about the event being posted on Twitter.

For example, on May 11th, 2021, Twitter[15] user @papimusix made a humorous tweet about cycling to work in the event of gas prices rising to $5 that received over 12,000 retweets and 83,900 likes in three days (shown below, left). On May 12th, 2021, Twitter[16] user @cancerplanet made a tweet in which they intentionally misrepresented the bags from the 2019 photographs as "piss bags," with the tweet gaining over 4,100 retweets and 41,500 likes in two days (shown below, center). On the same day, Twitter[17] user @DMbuttstuff and several others made jokes about "gas" being a slang word for marijuana, with @DMbuttstuff's tweet gaining over 17,000 retweets and 110,000 likes in two days (shown below, right).

Rafi @papimusix Me n the homies otw to work when gas hits 5$ 9:34 PM · May 11, 2021 · Twitter for iPhone cam (tormented) @cancerplanet they had a crazy sale going on Piss at walmart . Jackpot baby!!! 9:04 AM · May 12, 2021 · Twitter for iPhone Butt Stuff ... @DMbuttstuff no gas shortage up here baby 7:31 PM · May 12, 2021 · Twitter for iPhone

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Top Comments


I'm gravely disappointed in America. All of these people should just stop being selfish and hoarding the gasoline. Just walk away. And leave the oil, the pump, and all the gas. Just walk away, and there will be an end to the horror.


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