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Panic at the pump subsides
A Red Rabbit transit bus makes its way to a transfer station at the corner of Pine Street and High Street Wednesday. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Shortages have resulted in panic and long lines at local gas stations. But the panic seemed to have eased a little on Wednesday with reports that, with a little help, the area’s fuel supply is finally bouncing back from the blows of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Motorists had an easier time finding gasoline in Gainesville on Wednesday, although many were only selling regular unleaded.

Prices for regular unleaded still hovered around $4 a gallon Wednesday afternoon in Hall County. Fuel gauge reports from AAA showed that the state’s average gasoline price dropped by one cent to $3.91 from Tuesday to Wednesday.

The state’s average price for unleaded was 30 cents higher than Wednesday’s national average, according to AAA.

There are indications that fuel supply problems will continue to improve, and that help is on the way.

The Department of Energy approved the release of up to 900,000 barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to two Gulf Coast refineries Wednesday and reported that crude oil production capacity in the Gulf of Mexico has improved since Monday, according to a report from Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Office.

Gov. Sonny Perdue wrote a letter to President George Bush on Monday requesting that a "significant amount" of oil be released from the reserve to help ease the area’s gasoline shortage, which seemed to have eased somewhat Wednesday although several gas stations throughout Hall County were out of the commodity.

"These crude releases will help ensure that the Southeast continues to receive consistent fuel supplies as we continue to see more stations receive fuel and lines shorten," Perdue said.

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. As a result, an additional 150,000 gallons of fuel has come in to the state each day, according to the governor’s office.

Fuel shortages may have affected ridership on Hall Area Transit. Janice Crow, director of Hall Area Transit, said as many people rode the Red Rabbit in September as in the past two months when ridership increased with incentives like Dump the Pump and the library pass program, which offered free rides for parents and children to Hall County libraries.

In the last week of September, 2,291 people used Hall Area Transit, a number that is fairly similar to those in the same weeks in June, July and August, Crow said.

"It’s obvious that the ridership is up... now we have the same ridership numbers and there are no free ride passes," Crow said.