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Lines ease at the gas pump

POSTED: October 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Lines eased somewhat Tuesday in Hall County as a hurricane-induced gas shortage continued to leave some stations without fuel, while others, albeit temporarily, had one or more grades of unleaded gasoline.

Meanwhile, Gov. Sonny Perdue sent a letter to President Bush on Monday requesting that a "significant amount" of crude oil be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help ease the shortage.

Perdue contends that while many Gulf Coast refineries are operating again after disruptions from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike last month, not all are receiving enough oil to return to full capacity.

"Now, as refinery capacity is returning to pre-hurricane levels, I believe a surge in crude from the Reserve would bridge the gap until full production resumes and lessen the impact of shortages on the daily lives of our citizens," Perdue wrote in his letter to Bush.

White House officials did not immediately return a call for comment.

But fuel analyst Tom Kloza with the Oil Price Information Service said extra oil isn’t the answer. It could take refineries several weeks to ramp up operations regardless of how much crude they receive.

"It’s probably political cover in asking for that," he said about Perdue’s request.

A petroleum industry official said last week that there were more than 70 tankers in the Gulf of Mexico waiting to off-load crude oil.

On Tuesday, Perdue also made it easier for gas to be delivered by temporarily allowing suppliers without a state motor fuel license to sell gas in Georgia.

The gas shortage has created long lines at stations and frustrated drivers around the Southeast, hitting particularly hard in the Atlanta area, Nashville, Tenn., and western North Carolina.

The state’s main artery for gas, operated by Colonial Pipeline, is back to pre-hurricane levels, but it takes days for the gas to cover the distance from the coast to communities inland, spokesman Steve Baker said.

While the gas shortage has adversely affected some commuters, others who depend on automobile delivery say they’re getting by.

Jim Brumbelow, circulation director for The Times, said his carriers are out in the early morning hours, when more stations seem to have more fuel.

"We’ve had to help a couple of our carriers find gas," Brumbelow said. "It’s been an inconvenience, but there has been no interruption of delivery."

Ellen Stainback, manager of Mr. Edd’s Pizza Plus in Clermont said nearby gas stations have kept their delivery drivers rolling.

"So far, it hasn’t affected us, she said. "There are two store’s right beside us and we know when they get gas."

Stainback said drivers at the pizza company’s location in Cleveland have, at times, had trouble finding gasoline.

QuikTrip, which has 111 locations around Atlanta, reports that 70 to 75 percent of its stores are receiving fuel and the company is trying to grow that number throughout this week. Strong demand and the logistics of gasoline tank haulers enduring long lines at the terminal will likely result in QT having some stores with spot outages, but the company reports the situation is getting better and will continue to improve.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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