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Price of gas may stay high for now

Stations refilling after demand strained supply

POSTED: September 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

QuikTrip's pumps remained dry at the Ridge Road location. The station was out of gas all weekend.

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Gas prices likely will stay up this week, even though Hurricane Ike didn’t wreak as much havoc on Texas oil refineries as some expected.

"Now the storm has passed, and it appears there’s no damage to the refineries and the pipelines. But it’s going to take them at least a week to get back up and at least a week to get new gasoline products into the pipelines, so it’s going to be a tight market for a couple weeks. It’s just going to happen," said Mike Thornbrugh, a spokesman for QuikTrip.

Aside from higher fuel prices, the storm in Texas also caused many gas stations to run out of gas during the weekend.

Some area stations, such as Citgo on E.E. Butler Parkway, put up signs asking customers to limit their purchases to 10 gallons during the weekend to try to avoid running out of gas.

"It’s a proactive measure," said Citgo store manager Joey Gordon.

Gordon said his gas station was "very, very busy" Friday and Saturday and demand has remained steady through the start of the work week.

"We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had ample gasoline and been able to accommodate our customers," Gordon said.

Gordon said though prices are high, he expects things to be back to normal by Wednesday.

"The storm is over. Those rigs didn’t get hit," Gordon said. "But they shut them down as a precautionary measure. Mother Nature is out of our hands."

Area QuikTrips took a different approach. Instead of asking customers to limit their purchases, QuikTrip limited the stations that would get gasoline.

"Unfortunately we’ve all been through this a couple years ago. What we learned from it was there was a mass rush where everyone went out and bought gasoline, and the system can’t take that much demand. So you had spotting, you had outages all over the place," Thornbrugh said. "And so this year we were going to try to manage where we knew there was going to be a rush, there was going to be a little shortage of gasoline, and keep a percentage of our QuikTrip stores open in each quadrant of the metropolitan area. And as the supplies became a little bit better, we’d be able to fill in more stores."

Thornbrugh said people getting nervous and buying gas all at once this weekend contributed heavily to the low supplies. He said about 25 percent of QuikTrip stores were designated to have fuel available 24 hours a day.

Thornbrugh said at least half the QuikTrip stations were restocked and back to normal as of Monday.

"It’s going to get hopefully better now in the next couple days," Thornbrugh said.

The QuikTrip on E.E. Butler Parkway near Interstate 985 was out of fuel all weekend and was still out as of Monday afternoon.

Having less fuel available to gas stations causes the supply to go down while demand goes up as people fill up in anticipation of a gas shortage.

"The demand has been very very heavy. A lot heavier than normal. Not knowing what’s going to happen, people want to have gas," Thornbrugh said.

But what’s happening is likely a short-term problem that will be solved once the Texas refineries are up and running again.

"Any time you have 25 percent of the capacity of the United States shut down you’re going to see rising prices on gasoline — short-lived, but it’s still unpleasant."

According to AAA’s fuel gauge report, the average statewide price for regular unleaded Monday was $4.16 a gallon, up 16 cents from Sunday.

Midgrade averaged almost $4.37, and premium fuel jumped 15 cents overnight to an average of $4.56 a gallon.

The national average for regular is $3.84 a gallon

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed an executive order Friday activating Georgia’s price-gouging statute in an effort to thwart unlawful increases in gas prices and other products.

The Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs confirmed there were 140 complaints of price gouging from across the state as of 2 p.m. Monday.

If you believe that a gas station is unfairly raising prices compared to other retailers, save the receipt, write down the name and address of the station and call 404-651-8600 to report it.



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