LAWRENCEVILLE - Georgia had some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation Monday as supply problems brought on by Hurricane Ike continued to plague motorists' wallets at the pump.
With the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the metro area at $4.12, Randy Bly, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South, said the spike in prices seen by consumers since Friday could continue increasing in the coming days.
"We're in for a bumpy ride this week," Bly said. "We might even well see $5 a gallon at some places in Georgia. A big chunk of our product has been taken off line."
According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline Monday was $3.84.
What Bly said was "off line" meant that some pumps in the metro area still had yellow plastic bags placed on them Monday afternoon. A yellow plastic bag placed over a service pump meant it was out of service or without gas. That was the story at a normally bustling QuikTrip gas station located at Ga. Highway 316 and Duluth Highway. With no price on the marquee sign and all pumps covered in plastic yellow bags, it was clear that the station was out of its best-selling product. To help customers find fuel for their cars, the store hung a paper sign in the window alerting customers to other nearby QT locations that still had fuel for sale.
Traveling a little further west on Duluth Highway to the intersection of Riverside Parkway, a Shell station attendant there said he'd been delivered 3,000 gallons of gas Sunday and didn't know when he'd be getting more.
"Whenever they call, I'll have it," store clerk Kapil Cheudhri said. "But I haven't heard from them yet."
Cheudhri also said that his station ran out of gas Friday night when the panic in Atlanta began. He said he was gasless until Sunday's delivery.
A clerk working outside a different Shell station at Old Norcross Road and Sugarloaf Parkway said his store had run out of gas about 12:30 p.m. Monday. He also said he didn't know when the next shipment would arrive.
"There's no delivery because of Houston," a female clerk inside the store said.
Bly said the gasoline price increase felt by Georgians was mainly due to damage of two pipelines which bring the product from Texas - the colonial and the plantation. Bly said both pipelines were delivering gasoline "slowly, if at all" as a result of the hurricane. He also said that as of Monday, 15 refineries in Texas and Louisiana were still closed because they were without power. He said these 15 refineries together produced 3.9 million barrels of gasoline a day and represented 22 percent of the nation's refining capacity. He also said the price increases in gasoline brought on by Ike had nothing to do with crude oil barrel prices, which hit a six-month low Monday at just below $100 a barrel.
"It's not an oil issue, but a refining issue," Bly said. "The good news is there was no sustainable damage done to the refineries and hopefully we'll see a turnaround (in price) by the weekend or early next week."
Bly also said that despite the price increases and the fact that shortages were occurring at some stations, there was still no need to panic buy. He said that to account for the gasoline barrels not being refined domestically, the United States released 309 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserve and would increase gasoline refining at other facilities. Bly said the United States would also bring in refined gasoline as an import from other countries. He said this would mimic the actions taken after Hurricane's Katrina and Rita three years ago.
"The multi-million dollar question is how high will retail gasoline prices go and how long will the supply problems persist," he said.