Not Fade Away

Southeast fuel shortage easing, but not over, with new supply

Published in CSP Daily News

ATLANTA -- Another 900,000 barrels of crude oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) were on their way to Gulf Coast refineries that help supply Atlanta's gasoline, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday. But the oil was not expected to help cut lines at gas stations this week, the newspaper added.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Wednesday it had released the oil in response to a request made earlier in the week by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. To help the supply chain interrupted by hurricanes Ike and Gustav, the DOE has now released a total of 5.7 million [image-nocss] barrels of crude since September 3, the agency said.

On Wednesday, gas station lines around metro Atlanta appeared to shrink as drivers conserve and find other ways to get around, the report said, and a steadier supply was slowly making its way there: More Gulf Coast refineries were coming back online, one pipeline serving Atlanta was at full capacity, and another was at 80% to 85% capacity.

But areas hardest hit by the supply shortage—Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville—still faced another week or two of shortages, said the report.

Already, an Atlanta gas-hunting feed on Twitter, a website that lets users post instant messages, reflected collective relief as more people reported once-empty stations showing signs of life, the report said.

QuikTrip, which has 111 stations in metro Atlanta and accounts for more than a fifth of the area's gasoline sales, had deliveries at every store on Wednesday; about 10 ran out by the afternoon. A few days ago, only half its stores had gas coming in at all, the Journal-Constitution said.

"We do believe the situation is getting better on a daily basis," QuikTrip spokesperson Mike Thornbrugh told the paper. "We're still going to have spot outages, and that'll go on for a little bit of time, but they won't be near as noticeable. The worst is behind us."

The way in which Perdue responded to the Atlanta area's gas shortage has been criticized by some drivers and politicians, including Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.

On Wednesday, Oxendine's 2010 gubernatorial campaign called on Perdue to implement alternate-day gasoline purchasing and other emergency measures.

Perdue spokesperson Bert Brantley said state government has been judiciously implementing parts of the state's Energy Emergency Plan, including easing haulers' licensing restrictions and requesting the additional reserve crude. "As [drivers] get more confident there's going to be gas there when they need it, they'll only get it when they need it," Brantley told the paper. "This will normalize the demand a little bit."

Across the country, demand has fallen, Brian Milne, a refined fuels editor for energy information service DTN, told the Journal-Constitution.

Supply increases should mean a drop in price will follow, Jason Toews, co-founder of AtlantaGasPrices.com and its parent site, GasBuddy.com, told the paper. Prices spiked briefly around the United States after hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast, Toews said, but Georgia prices remained high. "It's been pretty bad in the whole Southeast—people are clamoring for gas, it makes the problem even worse," he said. "Within two or three weeks, we're going to see gas prices go back down."

Click herefor AAA's "Southeastern US Gasoline Supply Advisory."