Gas woes continue
Supply remains tight, but help on the way

LAWRENCEVILLE - First the price skyrocketed and now you can hardly get any. So goes the story for gasoline in the metro area.

But according to the governor's office, the current shortages occurring across the state should begin subsiding soon, especially with an Environmental Protection Agency waiver granted Tuesday that will allow more fuel to enter the Atlanta market.

"It has been getting worse but it will get better," Bert Brantley, the governor's spokesman said. "But right now it's simply demand outstripping supply because there has been lots of production interruption in the Gulf."

He isn't kidding.

An afternoon random drive Wednesday through parts of Lawrenceville, Suwanee and Duluth allowed this reporter to visit 33 different gas stations over the course of about two hours. Of those, only seven had fuel for sale. As one clerk at a Texaco station that had just ran out of fuel said, "It's been very hectic."

He wasn't kidding either. Hectic seemed to take center stage at one station that had gas - the Kroger located at the intersection of Riverside Parkway and Georgia Highway 120.

While patrons said they were only waiting about 15 to 20 minutes to fill up, the situation at one point got so out of control that two employees had to come outside and direct cars where to line up. At one point there were seven different vehicles waiting in line for a single pump as cars snaked into the grocery store's parking lot. One of those cars was a silver Honda Civic, owned by Lawrenceville resident Andrew Hall.

"I have a hard time believing that this big of a crisis is developing from everything that happened in Houston," Hall said. "It just seems ridiculous because it's been a week now. And then you have to come in here and fight for it like a bunch of vultures around a smorgasbord. It's just nuts."

According to Randy Bly, a spokesman for AAA Auto Club South, the reason the crisis is ongoing is because six or seven refineries in the Gulf are still without power, which means they aren't refining any gasoline. Because of the diminished amount being produced, the Colonial Pipeline which serves Atlanta is only running at about 25 percent of its normal capacity.

Bly said the EPA waiver granted Tuesday to allow "dirtier burning fuel" to enter the Atlanta market should help the situation. Bly said part of the recent shortage problem in metro Atlanta could be contributed to its usage of a "boutique fuel" which helps alleviate smog.

"The waivers are important, but it's still going to be dicey over the coming days," Bly said. "But things should start to improve by the weekend and should be a little better by the end of it. By the middle of next week, things should be closer to normal."

As Brantley put it, "the EPA waiver puts Atlanta on a level playing field with other parts of the country, but it doesn't restore full production. But it will allow fuel to come in that wouldn't normally do so."

He also said there is no normalcy or formula as to which stations have gas. He said that depends on who a gas station's supplier is. He also said until supplies reach normal levels, Georgians should continue to conserve gasoline as much as they can. He recommended combining car trips to run errands when possible or, if your employer allows it, teleworking.

Despite the recent shortages, Cathy Felbar said the situation isn't nearly as bad as what she remembers from the 1970s as she filled up her pick-up truck at Kroger on her way to Atlanta from the Athens area.

"It was all over the country then and was worse because there was no gas," she said.