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What is the Jones Act? And why might waiving it help ease gas ‘supply crunch’?

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The Biden administration said Tuesday it has begun considering a temporary waiver of the Jones Act, a key U.S. shipping law, to offset a “supply crunch” sparked by the recent cyberattack against the largest fuel pipeline system in the U.S.

It follows the weekend shutdown of the 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline, which was hit by a ransomware attack, throwing a wrench in a crucial artery for U.S. energy markets and the supplier of about 45% of fuel consumed by the East Coast.

What is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act dates back to 1920 and governs the rules around shipping and trade in the U.S. and its island territories, with an aim of protecting American business from foreign competition.

The law has been waived several times in the past, specifically in response to crises like hurricanes along the Gulf Coast and other events, said Jason Bordoff, co-founding dean of the Columbia Climate School.

The U.S. government waived it in November 2012, after

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