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No Gas Shortage, But People Panic Anyway

The mobile app GasBuddy, which accepts consumer reports of gasoline prices at various locations, is one way that people have been tracking the recent rise in gasoline prices.
Mark Haslett
The mobile app GasBuddy, which accepts consumer reports of gasoline prices at various locations, is one way that people have been tracking the recent rise in gasoline prices.

Fears of a gasoline shortage in Texas that began Wednesday night led to a consumer panic that continued across the region through Thursday. However, state officials urged people not to hoard gasoline, and to be patient with the current price spike related to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Long lines at stations and heavy demand, including some people filling portable containers as well as their vehicle's tank, led to a number of stations across the region running low or out of gasoline.

“Texans - Pls stay calm and DO NOT perpetuate rumors,” wrote Christi Craddick, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, in a Twitter post.  “There is currently NO shortage of gasoline in Texas due to #Harvey. These are rumors.”

The Texas Railroad Commission regulates oil and gas in the state. The office of Commissioner Ryan Sitton issued this statement Thursday afternoon:

While some refineries have shut down or are operating at reduced capacity due to Hurricane Harvey, plenty of refining capacity is still online and we have more than 230 million barrels of gasoline supply in Texas to meet needs.

Citizens have no need to fear shortages even though prices could climb during the next few weeks until all refining capacity is back online.

AAA Texas on Thursday reported the average price at the pump statewide was $2.26 per gallon. That's 12 cents higher than a week ago, before Harvey made landfall, and 4 cents higher than on Wednesday.

The association survey says U.S. gasoline prices Thursday averaged $2.45 per gallon, which is a dime higher than a week ago and 5 cents more than on Wednesday.

The supply crunch is being felt in Dallas-Fort Worth, where QuikTrip, one of the nation's largest convenience store chains, is temporarily halting gasoline sales at about half of its 135 stores in the area.

The company is instead directing gasoline deliveries to designated stores across the metro area, QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said. And while only half the Dallas-Fort Worth area stores will have gasoline, all will remain open, he said.

"Supply is way, way off," Thornbrugh said Thursday.

The Oklahoma-based company diverted gasoline deliveries in a similar way last year in metro Atlanta, where it has about 133 stores, after the Alabama pipeline spill.

RaceTrac, another major retailer, hasn't experienced any serious disruptions at their 112 North Texas stores, but a spokesperson said it could happen.

QuikTrip keeps a list of area locations with gas online and on its mobile app. Other people have turned to apps like GasBuddy and Gas Guru to keep updated and find the cheapest place to fill up in Dallas-Fort Worth. 

According to GasBuddy, prices in Commerce on Thursday evening ranged from $2.17 to $2.49 for a gallon of regular unleaded. In Bonham, Greenville, Sulphur Springs, and Paris, prices ranged from $2.15 to $2.69, with many stations selling at a price between $2.20 and $2.30.

Somewhere around 15 percent of U.S. oil refining capacity was put offline by the hurricane-turned-tropical-storm. How the weather holds out will be a key factor in how quickly refineries reopening.