Gas prices soar after Texas storm

 

Gas stations around Dover reflected the average price of a gallon of gas throughout Delaware on Monday — $2.69 a gallon. The price is up 49 cents per gallon from just more than a week ago. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Motorists who hit the road hoping to soak up a summer finale on Labor Day weekend might have had to downgrade their dining options and other expenses after the effects of Hurricane Harvey bumped gasoline prices skyward.

On Monday, drivers were paying an average of $2.69 per gallon — the average price throughout Delaware — at various Wawa, Royal Farms and Valero gas pumps around Dover, an increase of 49 cents per gallon from just more than a week ago.

The national average for a gallon of fuel was at $2.64 on Monday, marking the first time in two years the price has topped $2.50 per gallon across the country.

Ken Grant, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, doesn’t anticipate the inflated gas prices — which rose about 22 percent in a week — will stick around too long.

“Consumers will see a short-term spike in the coming weeks with gas prices likely topping $2.50 per gallon, but quickly dropping by mid to late September,” Mr. Grant said. “AAA does not expect refineries to be offline for months, as early reports indicate minimal to no significant damage to Corpus Christi and Houston refineries, but the coming days will offer more insight.”

Hurricane Harvey left devastating floods on Texas’ Gulf Coast after more than 40 inches of rain fell on Houston and surrounding cities and towns in the southeastern region of the state last week.

In addition, nearly 30 percent of the country’s refineries were shut down, causing the gasoline prices to spike.

However, Mr. Grant said motorists can look forward to mid-September as prices rebalance when refineries get back online, stations make the switchover to less expensive winter blend gasoline and seasonal demand tapers off.

“When you see what’s going on in Houston, you can hardly refer to an increase in gas prices as ‘pain’ at the pump,” he said.

“That said, the timing of the increase is unfortunate for all those (who planned) one final road trip this summer, as motorists are (paying) the highest Labor Day gas prices in two years.”

The higher prices didn’t appear to deter motorists as they made their way to family barbecues, beaches and other getaway spots in Delaware over the weekend.

However, there were some that aren’t happy with the pinch at the pump.

Angie Farrow, who lives in Felton, works two jobs, requiring driving to one in Rehoboth Beach and the other in Dover.

“Every time there’s a natural disaster they raise the prices on everything,” she said. “I understand why they’re doing it, just to be on the safe side, but there are all kinds of (gasoline reserves). I’d understand it a little more if we didn’t have the reserves.

“I don’t think (raising the gasoline prices) is right but they’re going to do what they’re going to do.”

Mr. Grant said other refineries are answering the call for fuel supply.

“Northeast refiners are stepping in and barging supplies to the U.S. Southeast, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America to offset the lack of supply from Gulf Coast refineries and pipelines shut down due to Harvey,” said Mr. Grant.

No matter, Alan Tulloch certainly felt a little bit lighter in the wallet on Monday.

“Six days ago I bought gas for $2.04 a gallon and I paid $2.69 (on Monday),” he said. “It’s ridiculous. I thought it was the holiday weekend but it may be hurricane related.

“I know one thing’s for certain, I don’t like it at all.”

Terrie Wade had a different take on the rising prices.

“I don’t really care about the prices right now just as long as I can get to work,” Ms. Wade said.

The good news for Delaware motorists is that AAA Mid-Atlantic does not expect the higher gas prices to hang around for an extended period of time.

In addition to refinery shut downs in southeast Texas, several major pipelines continue to operate at reduced rates, have shut down or plan to shut down due to lack of supply.

The Colonial Pipeline announced last Wednesday it expected to temporarily suspend its gasoline, diesel and jet fuel pipelines.

With its supplying refineries closed in the area, the pipeline operator cited reduced output as the reason for suspending its transportation operations.

The pipeline originates in Houston and supplies the East Coast.

“The (refinery) shut downs do not indicate a shortage of gasoline supplies in the Gulf Coast region or across the country,” Mr. Grant said. “These are preventative measures. Overall stocks in the Gulf are above average levels and will be available to drivers once power is restored and area roads are cleared.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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