For the first time in more than 15 days, the national gas price average appears to be leveling off despite Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma making landfall in the southeast.
Holding steady for five days at $2.67, Monday’s national gas price average is just 3 cents more expensive on the week, according to the latest AAA Fuel Gauge Report. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded Monday in Arkansas was $2.41, and $2.35 in Oklahoma. In Fort Smith, gas prices averaged $2.31.
With an increase of 7 cents, Florida, Indiana and Georgia were among the top 10 states that saw the largest gas price increases on the week. Some states saw gas prices drop by 1 to 6 cents cents (Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware and Oklahoma). At the end of last week, some Florida and other Southeast states saw consumers flock to gas stations to fill up on fuel, causing some stations to have gas outages ahead of the storm.
GasBuddy.com data indicate that 25 percent to 50 percent of stations in major cities in areas disrupted by recent Hurricanes Irma and Harvey are without motor fuels and customer wait times for those where gas is available is 30 to 60 minutes. The difference between the lowest price and the highest price in a given city is typically anywhere from 60 cents to $1 a gallon. GasBuddy’s crowdsourced price data suggests the storm has caused “atypically large price spreads.”
“During this hurricane season, GasBuddy’s crowd-sourced data has been alerting motorists to nearby stations and the availability and price of motor fuels, power outages and other essential services at these stations,” GasBuddy states.
“There is not a gasoline shortage in the U.S., but instead localized challenges — power outages, impassable roads, debris — in Florida keeping gasoline supplies from where they are needed most,” said AAA Spokesperson Jeanette Casselano. “Total U.S. gasoline stocks sit above the five-year average. Since much of Florida’s gasoline delivery occurs via barge, all eyes will remain on port conditions as the storm passes.”
Currently, all Florida ports are closed while some in North and South Carolina are open with restrictions. To alleviate local supply disruptions, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved a Jones Act waiver for areas affected by the storms. The seven-day waiver will allow foreign flag vessels to bring in fuel to help with outages amid the response and recovery efforts.
As Floridians wait out the storm, Americans along the Gulf Coast continue to recover from Hurricane Harvey. According to the Department of Energy, at least five refineries in the Gulf Coast are operating at reduced rates, which accounts for eight percent of U.S. refining capacity. Six refineries are in the process of restarting, accounting for 12 percent of U.S. refining capacity. Five refineries remain shut down, accounting for 6 percent of U.S. refining capacity. The restarting process can take several days or weeks, depending on damage. The Colonial Pipeline continues to experience a delivery delay of up to a week to Mid-Atlantic states.
“As refineries slowly come back online, states along the East Coast can expect gas prices to remain volatile as a result of already tight supply levels stemming from Harvey combined with the yet-to-be-known impact of Hurricane Irma,” added Casselano.
As of Monday, according to AAA, 69 percent of gas stations in the U.S. are selling gas at $2.50 or more. Only 7 percent list gas at $3 or more.