There is officially a gas panic underway in Georgia. Word arrived this morning that the major pipeline serving metro Atlanta was down because of Katrina (the pumps are in Louisiana, and have no power to run), and the radio has been buzzing all day with rumors that the city will be gas-less by the weekend.
Yesterday, unleaded at my neighborhood station was $2.48. At lunchtime today, it was up to $2.68. Four hours later--ten minutes ago--it was $2.98. A station a half-mile away was all the way up to $3.29. There are three stations on my route home from work. They all had long lines, the first actual gas lines I've seen since the 1970's. I hear from a friend in Columbus that every station there cut off gas service at 4PM Eastern.
Is it a real shortage? Is it price-gouging? You got me. But I'm glad I topped off my tank during my lunch break.
UPDATE: Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue says,
"There's no reason to panic. There's plenty of gas on the way and the only way we'll have problems locally is if we rush out and hoard," the governor said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference. "Stay calm and conserve, don't just run out to top off your tank. Just continue with normal fueling habits."
Hurricane Katrina knocked out power to two pipelines that bring gas and jet fuel into the region. The lines have been down for two days while the Metro typically holds onto a 10-day supply of gasoline.
"That does affect our gas supply and it's led to an increase in gas prices," the governor said of the pipeline problem. "This is a temporary problem due to Hurricane Katrina and will be resolved soon. It is not a cause for alarm or panic. It is not a long-term situation."
Governor Perdue said he contacted the state's gas distributors Wednesday morning and has been assured that they are working to address the supply problem. He said that a significant amount of the state's gas supplies are not affected because they arrive at the port, not by pipeline.
If he's right, this is just a case of the station owners cashing in on a rampant rumor mill. If he's wrong, it's going to be a not-fun week in the ATL.
I hope he's right--and if he is, you can bet the bank people are going to remember which stations raised prices the most, and the fastest.
MORE: Wow. Fox News just showed one BP station in Atlanta that's charging $5.87 a gallon for regular unleaded, and $6.07 for premium. No way in hell that isn't gouging. Nobody in town was much above $2.50 over the weekend.
MORE MORE: A friend "in the business" says Perdue is wrong, sort of:
The BP and Citgo terminals in Doraville, GA are out. Not allocated. Out. The Colonial pipeline is down and will be until tonight. They're flying a generator in tonight and will have one of the pipelines operating sometime tonight. The other one won't be operating for a couple of days. The problem is that it takes between eight (8) to twenty-one (21) days to get the fuel up the pipeline. Now the good news (if you want to call it that) is that there's fuel available. But it won't be cheap for the terminals or the state.
This is really a geographically controlled problem. Everybody west of the Mississippi is fine. Everybody north of Tennessee and North Carolina are fine. It's just the Southeast. Most of our fuel comes out of New Orleans and now we're going to have to get it from other places. Those other places are further away than New Orleans and that distance costs money. Diesel fuel is getting hit more than gasoline. So my earlier statement about the terminals being out was meant for the diesel fuel. For obvious political purposes, there won't be a gasoline shortage. The truckers and machine operators on the other hand...
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