Gas prices should begin to fall soon

Published 7:37 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Have no fear; Crenshaw and Butler counties didn’t turn into the gasoline-deficient world depicted in the apocalyptic 1981 thriller “Road Warrior” over the weekend.

Mad Max isn’t roaming the streets of Luverne, searching for fuel. A hockey-masked brute named Lord Humongous and his gang of mutant bikers haven’t laid siege to the city.

Fears of a gasoline shortage this weekend due to Hurricane Ike’s strike against the nation’s refining capacity in Texas were unfounded, according to Clay Ingram, spokesperson for AAA-Alabama.

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Certainly, some convenience stores in the area were drained of gasoline on Friday, but most had ample supply in the tanks.

The main reason tanks were empty?

Consumers, said Ingram.

“I’m firmly convinced that the problem we have now was because of the panic buying on Friday afternoon,” said Ingram.

Ingram said many of the refineries along the Texas-Louisiana coast had shut down before Hurricane Gustav made landfall on Sept. 1.

Then, just when production was scheduled to resume, Ike barreled towards the southwestern Texas coast, home to one-fifth of the nation’s refineries.

“It has definitely caused a disruption for fuel out of that area,” said Ingram. “But they have gasoline in inventory. The reason we’ve seen some stations run out of gas is because the supplies are a little tight right now. Almost all of the retail stores need a gas shipment, but the distributors are having a little trouble keeping up. The pipelines are not set up to go that quickly.”

There were others with reason to worry, though.

The effects of Ike were significant enough for motorists to expect price fluctuations in the next week.

Gas started climbing in Luverne on Thursday. AAA-Alabama reported the average price of regular unleaded gasoline at noon Tuesday as $4.09 per gallon.

Ingram said consumers should expect a price correction within the next one or two weeks.

“Once we get the refineries on track and operational, we should see the price come down,” he said. “Crude oil has declined and continues to fall which is a good sign for future gas prices. Prices are just up right now because of the disruption in the process.”