Hurricane Ike, Gas Prices and Insanity in North Carolina

First, I should admit my bias. I don't pay a lot of attention to gas prices. I don't ride around town to find the cheapest gas. I figure I've gotta buy it when I've gotta buy it, and there's just not a lot I can do about it. Shopping for the best price saves pennies at best, and my time is more valuable to me than that.

Yes, I work at home, so you might say it's easy for me to have this attitude, but the truth is, I felt the same way when I traveled for my job. I drove all over North and South Carolina, Georgia, and occassionally Florida. I filled up before I left home, and I filled up again when I got below a quarter of a tank, regardless of where I was or how much the gas cost. After an exit from the interstate, I picked the gas station that allowed me to get back to the interstate in the easiest traffic flow, not the one that might have one cent less per gallon regular unleaded.

So when my sister called yesterday to say, "You better go fill your gas tanks up," I only gave it half a thought. I considered calling my husband to suggest he fill up on the way home, but then never actually got around to it.

Julia said that in Greenville, NC gas had jumped from $3.59 a gallon to $3.99 in an hour, and that they were limiting your purchase to 10 gallons. I jumped on my favorite local news station's website but did not see any crazy gas-price headlines, and a search for "gas ration" returned zero results.

Later in the day, my friend Jackie called while waiting in line to fill up her Jeep in Wake Forest, NC. We had plenty of time to gripe about the prices, the oil companies, and the reaction of our fellow citizens. She did have to cut the conversation short before she made it to the pumps, however, because she felt the need to put on her defensive driving hat in the gas station parking lot, thanks to rude drivers cutting off others approaching the pumps and blocking those trying to exit.

I decided to take another look at wral.com. Gas prices were suddenly in the headlines. I read that one of my usual stops (not because it's cheap, but because it's around the corner from my house), Murphy USA, the "Walmart gas station", had 65 cars in line! I knew that would mean traffic backed up to South Main. There was NO WAY I was going to join the madness to fill up my tank, even though I remembered my fuel light had come on the previous night.

My husband, stepson and I went out for dinner Friday night and the BP across the street from the Murphy House was hopping. Regular unleaded was $4.19 a gallon. The Murphy House still had a line half way to South Main at $3.99 a gallon. We came home after dinner with my fuel light still on.

How legitimate are the fears that Ike will affect our oil supply?

According to WRAL, "The price increase came despite a significant drop for crude oil prices on the futures market Friday - prices briefly sank below the psychologically important $100-a-barrel mark for the first time since April 2 before settling at $101.18."

Mark Shenk quotes Gene McGilian, an analyst at TFS Energy LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, saying "The oil market is shrugging off the impact of Hurricane Ike." Shank continues in his Bloomberg article that McGillian said, "Investors are more concerned about the fallout from the poor economy than the storm threat." But the same article goes on to cover a "Nightmare Scenario", reporting that Ike's storm surge will "completely inundate all the refineries and chemical plants that line Galveston Bay from Texas City all the way to Baytown."

In NC and other southern states, the issue is not the price of crude oil; it is the supply of gasoline from the Gulf. I read yesterday that one fifth of NC's supply is from the Gulf, but now that I want to know whether that meant refined or crude, I can't find the source. I did find this source that says "About 18 percent of U.S. oil processing capacity has been shut before Ike makes landfall today. More than a quarter of U.S. crude production is based in the Gulf Coast region. Evacuations have halted 97 percent of Gulf oil output, the Minerals Management Service said yesterday."

It frustrates me to see the prices rise even before Ike hit land, but apparently I don't understand much about the industry.

"The traditional practice in the business is that you charge for your replacement costs not for the costs of the product you are selling right now," said Tom Crosby, a spokesman for AAA Carolinas in "Hurricane Ike Fuels Higher Gas Prices, Shortages" (Winston Salem Journal, September 12, 2008).

I also do not understand why gas prices are higher in the western part of the state and lower at the beach. My sister, Deborah, saw the same trend in South Carolina. As she traveled east from Bluffton to Hilton Head Friday night, she saw the prices drop, from $4.29 to 3.99 a gallon. Deborah said her management gave employees with company vehicles the instructions to fill up Thursday. She paid $3.59 a gallon Thursday and the next morning the same station was selling gas at $4.69. She was happy to have saved over a dollar a gallon but wondered how her company knew while friends and family blew off her warning since they had not seen anything on the news.

If you tell me that I'll save $1 a gallon if I fill up today instead of tomorrow, how likely am I to rush to the gas station? Well, assuming my fuel light is on, I can save $16. How much is $16 worth to me? It depends. How busy am I at work? How long are the lines already? (I mean, if my fuel light is on, will I run out of gas waiting in line?) How much is that $16 really going to help me if prices triple in the coming weeks,as some have told me they have "heard" will happen in North Carolina?

I pulled out of my driveway this morning for a cigarette run (I know, I know...I'll quit one of these days.) forgetting about the gas price issue until I saw my fuel light smiling at me. "Oh no," I thought. "I hope there are not lines." I had to get gas at this point. We had already pushed the empty tank, and I had errands to run and had to chauffer my daughter to her current France-trip fund-raising job.

Thankfully, the BP station on my left looked sane when I passed, and on my right, Murphy was no worse than usual on a Saturday. I only waited for one car in front of me to fill up. When it was my turn, I pulled up as far as I could to still reach my tank reasonably well, conscious that someone behind me might be blocking traffic while they waited. They lady behind me stuck her head out of the window to ask, "Can't you pull up so I can pull up, too?"

I'm sure I looked puzzled, glancing around thinking how can I possibly pump my gas if I pull up more, and wondering what in the world she was thinking. She realized then that the pump in front of me was diesel and apologized, but then went on to chat while I pumped.

She said she spoke to her son near Waco,TX, last night and he said their gas prices had dropped yesterday. How crazy is that?

Sure enough, according to gasbuddy.com, today (September 13, 2008) Houston ranges between $3.27 and $3.33. I know, I know...it's the delivery and transporation costs, right? But why do we have a range of $3.59 to $4.19 in Wake Forest? Why in North Carolina do we have a range of $3.46 to $4.99?

Those last questions are somewhat rhetorical. We have the prices because we will pay them. To some extent, we have those prices because we rush to the pumps, afraid to pay even more, and thus limit the supply, not that I really blame anyone. My sister, Julia, and my friend, Jackie, both have to work out of town next week. They didn't fill up in reaction to the prices as much as they did out of fear of shortages.

Julia reported that in Greenvile there were rations. My news sources claim that some stations posted signs requesting customers only purchase 10 gallons at at time, but none turned off the pumps after 10 gallons, so rationing appears to be an exaggeration. Still the signs and the price increases induced panic yesterday.

It concerns me we all feel so vulnerable, not just to gas prices, but to a basic feeling of helplessness, at the mercy of the big corporations and of our government. I realize my head-in-the-sand, "what can you do about it" attitude is no better. I'm with the masses when we gripe and whine about the greed of big oil companies. But it seems to me that the rush to the pumps in North Carolina on Friday, September 12, 2008, contained an element of greed in consumers, too.

I'm glad Govenor Easly is in the news, reminding companies of our state's laws against price gouging. I'm glad to hear the governor of Florida assure his citizens that they have an adequate supply of fuel. But the cynic in me really wonders about Bush lifting the ban on fuel imports.

What jumps out at me about this lift is the "we suspended EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) waivers on certain reformulated gasoline" part. How long will this lift last? What will be the effect on our environment?

I have at least 222 pages of intense reading to finish before I can even begin to offer an opinion as to how long I think it should last, if it should ever have been lifted to begin with, or even if I really think the ban should be in place (I know the EPA is not perfect). I'm not an expert on the subject. I did find quickly in Doug Simpson's blog about the Federal Trade Commission's Investigation of Gasoline Price Manipulation and Post-Katrina Gasoline Price Increases that "While these led to retail gasoline price rises of 50 cents and 25 cents respectively, the prices had returned to pre-Katrina levels by December 2005."

i have confidence gas prices won't break us. Not our spirit, anyway. How soon our pocket books recover may very well depend on how much all of us are willing to simply think before the November election.

Copyright Dineane Whitaker 2008 - Please do not copy and paste this article, but feel free to post a link using this url: http://hubpages.com/_ndwcopyright/hub/Hurricane-Ike--Gas-Prices-and-Insanity-in-North-Carolina

Has Hurricane Ike Affected Your Gas Prices?

If yes, let us know where you are and what you are paying in the comment section.

See results without voting

More by this Author


Comments 33 comments

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

They have us over a barrel, don't they. The EPA -- and especially those who want them to enforce more restrictions are keeping us dependent on foreign fuel.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

Rochelle, this is why I know I have more to learn. My impression is that the EPA instituted the bans on imports, so I'm not sure how that is keeping us dependent on foreign oil. It seems to me Bush lifting such bans is increasing that dependency. But whoever "they" are, yes, they have us over a barrel. And we can't seem to figure out what to do about it.


DonnaCSmith profile image

DonnaCSmith 8 years ago from Central North Carolina

Well, I guess Franklinton didn't hear the news, cause I did my weekly fillup up yesterday at $3.72 and I was the only one at the BP on US 1 and Pocomoke Rd. Actually , it was a bi-weekly. I had not had to fill up since I took Julia down to the Bass mt. Bluegrass Festival.

Excellent hub, Dineane! I see the jounralist in you is alive and well.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 8 years ago from California Gold Country

I think 'they' make it too confusing for ordinary people to understand, but the Bush administration has constantly pushed programs which require increasing use use of ethanol and biofuels to reduce dependency on foreign oil. I don't know what the latest policies are.

One of the problems is that environmental groups fight the establishment of more refineries and drilling-- even if precautions are taken to protect land, water and air and even if it would make us less dependent on foreign oil.

Maybe we should get used to the idea of living green and not using any fuel.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

I'm still up in the air on how I feel about drilling off the NC coast--and I admit it's my ignorance. I like your suggestion that we all live more green! But I think there's "fuel" available more compatible with the environment. The problem is that no one has figured out how to make it super-profitable for the super-rich.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

Oh, and thanks, Mom! I'll be curious to see what happens in Franklinton over the next few days. The only "theory" I could come up with in my pea-brain about why gas prices at the beach were lower than here is that maybe they run through their supply much more slowly, and the increase will come with the gas trucks in a few days. Maybe that's the case in more rural areas, as well. That theory is just from my stressed brain - I can't believe how long I worked on this hub!


budwood profile image

budwood 8 years ago from Southern Nevada

DUring the gasoline shortagee in the mid-1970s, I found that the rural areas had gasoline, but the urban areas were always runnung out.  That figures - - during a gasoline shortage, few people will be taking drives into the country!

Also, see my hub on the Hard Asset conference.  From what I understand, there's more oil left in "pumped dry" old oil wells than was originally pumped out of them. It's all about new EOR techniques. - - But it's not cheap oil anymore.


guruette profile image

guruette 8 years ago from Lake Park, FL

The most frustrating thing is the gas they raised prices on is the old gas in the tanks, they didn't pay higher prices for most of what we are buying. I live in Florida, and they look for ANY excuse to raise prices these days. What happened to supply and demand? The price goes up due to uncertainty of supply, not the actual lack of supply. It seems criminal.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

guruette, I agree, it is frustrating because it just doesn't make any sense. Today (9/14/08) my neighborhood stations have flopped - the BP dropped to $3.99 and Walmart went up to $4.09. Today's range for NC on gasbuddy.com is $3.54 to $4.59.


LeaAnne profile image

LeaAnne 8 years ago from North Carolina

Awesome hub! I can not belief this happened in North Carolina. I got gas on Friday, on E, $3.63 with a 10 gallon limit in Raleigh. Traffic was crazy on Capital Blvd. with folks trying to get into the gas stations.


Bonnie Ramsey profile image

Bonnie Ramsey 8 years ago from United States

Saturday (9/13) ours jumped from $3.57 to $4.59 at the Pilot Travel Center and today (9/14) it has jumped to $4.79. The small truckstop around the corner from us is normally the cheapest in town and now it is 20 to 30 cpg higher than all of the others! And I know he hasn't had to buy any more gas. What he is hiking is the gas that was already in the pumps so it amazes me that they can get away with it! By the way, I am in New Albany, MS.

I think the reason that they hike in northern areas and drop on the coastal areas is because the attention is all focused on the coastal areas for the price gouging. Therefore, it is easy for other areas to get away with it because they are focused on the coastal areas more. Not sure if that's the case but it just seems that way. I also believe that much of it is done out of "fear" of a shortage. And it is only fear for now because they have assured the retailers that there is no shortage of fuel but apparently they think they can just hike the price anyway and we'll pay it.

All I know is that I am glad that only my husband has to drive to work! When he is working, he is gone for one to three days on the truck so he uses very little gas with the van parked at the terminal. Since I have a home business that I work both online and offline, now is the time for me to focus my attention online for a while lol. It sure is great to have that option during times like this! But it is still also frustrating when you get ready to visit family that live more than 2 hours away!

Bonnie


allshookup profile image

allshookup 8 years ago from The South, United States

Bonnie, They had some sort of agents on the ground in Tupelo because they pushed up our gas so high so fast. I don't know if they made it over to you, but they said they were going to the surrounding cities. It was going up quickly by the hour starting Thrusday in Tupelo. It seems to have leveled off now. I don't know if it was because of those agents or what. But they upped the prices of the gas already in the tanks here, just like you said they did there. We didn't rush out to buy gas, hoping that it would settle by the time we need some. But they had signs saying things like 'Gas shortage, buy it now while there is still some left.' Stuff like that. Using fear to gouge the people. I thought it was sorry of the them to do that. Also, I have a friend down at the W and she said in Columbus and south of there you could only buy 10 gallons at a time. They were rationing it. I hope things will settle now.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for the contribution, Bonnie. I'm with you - so glad I am working at home! But my husband has a pretty good commute - 30 plus miles round trip.

LeaAnne, thanks for sharing - I had not heard of anyone else in our area that ran into the "ration". I do have a friend that was worried about getting home from Greensboro this weekend because stations in the neighborhood were all out of gas. I guess this is one hub I'll have to keep updating as things unfold.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

Bonnie & allshookup, what state(s) are you in?


allshookup profile image

allshookup 8 years ago from The South, United States

Mississippi


allshookup profile image

allshookup 8 years ago from The South, United States

dineane, this is a good hub. It just shows that there is so much selfishness everywhere nowdays. Which is sad. But, I appreciate you giving us a place to come and vent about it. I think its rediculious and selfish for those people to do that. I don't work, so I wont be costing much in the way of gas, but my husband does work and has to drive to town daily. He's driving the car instead of the SUV because it's better on gas. Great hub!


Bonnie Ramsey profile image

Bonnie Ramsey 8 years ago from United States

Mississippi here, too

Hi, allshookup! Nice to see a neighbor in here! We'll have to meet up sometime since I am in Tupelo almost as much as New Albany some weeks lol. My nephew lives in Tupelo and manages the Beldon Sonic so if you ever go in there, tell him you are a friend of his aunt, Bonnie!

I am waiting to refill mine since I just filled up Wednesday. Hopefully by the time I have to refill, they will have a handle on things! Thanks for the info allshookup!


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

Bonnie & allshookup, I hope you'll keep us posted on how things progress in Mississippi. It is interesting to compare.


allshookup profile image

allshookup 8 years ago from The South, United States

I'm waiting until Tuesday to fill mine up. I have to go to Corinth. I'll remember that when we go to that Sonic! Yes, we should meet up sometime. dinane, I'll let you know Tuesday night or Wednesday our gas prices around my side of town. Thanks again for the hub!


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

Hi Dineane, I'm in the UK so was unaffected by the events you describe. What I do know, however, is that you only have to whisper the word 'shortage' and a queue starts to form. That goes for everything, from diesel, to sugar, to toilet rolls! It's worrying just how much we've all come to depend on oil based energy and products. Whether or not the oil is running out is immaterial. It's more than time that we had alternative strategies in place globally.


atlanta 8 years ago

Gas is really outrageous and I can't understand why because the price of oil is constantly going down, what's the problem,oh yes they will say refineries are down but I'm sure they gas stashed somewhere. How do think the the economy to stay settled when we're probably already in a recession and nobody wants to admit it;everything is going up--for what no gas. thank you.


allshookup profile image

allshookup 8 years ago from The South, United States

Me reporting in lol.........gas is $3.99 today for regluar unleaded. People are not lining up for it anymore. People are calmer today. Guess they have figured out that there is no shortage at all. How sad is it that people did that to people? Very selfish. Hope y'all are having a great day! :)


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

Amanda & atlanta - thanks for your comments! And allshookup, thanks for your update!

In NC, the attorney general has issued seven subpoenas to stations that reportedly sold gas for more than $5.49 Fri or Sat. http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/3548203/


allshookup profile image

allshookup 8 years ago from The South, United States

WOW, thats unreal! I'm glad they caught them and are doing something about it. I hope it sends a message to all the others who are doing it. Thanks for letting us know what's going on there.


LeaAnne profile image

LeaAnne 8 years ago from North Carolina

Even today on my 20 mile trek to work in Raleigh, gas prices are ranging from $3.89 to $4.59 with at least four stations on route that do not have gas at all. Perplexing.


talented_ink profile image

talented_ink 8 years ago from USA

It took me a while to get to this hub, because i'm still in Dallas because of Ike. I find it really hard to believe that gas prices should go up because a hurricane hit Texas refineries. I believe that there should already have been a stockpile of oil and gas, and the repairs to the refineries should be done before that stockpile ever runs dry. Good hub and hopefully the prices will go back down soon.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for commenting, talented_ink. I hope all settles for you soon.

9/19 report - gasbuddy.com says my regular Wake Forest station is down to $3.88 today, with the high in town at 4.09. I haven't been out much this week to see for myself, but I have to admit, I wasn't even expecting this slight drop so soon.


Bonnie Ramsey profile image

Bonnie Ramsey 8 years ago from United States

Things are calming here since the investigators hit north Mississippi. I am not sure of the price at Pilot but elsewhere in New Albany, it is down to $3.39 so that is at least more normal than any since Ike!


allshookup profile image

allshookup 8 years ago from The South, United States

In Tupelo they are calming down too. The Feds have charged 5 companies/stations here fines for the gouging they did during the hurricane period. Maybe they'll learn a lesson and not do it again? We can hope I guess.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

good to hear, Bonnie & allshookup! I did venture out this afternoon and the Walmart station was 3.79 (gasbuddy said 3.88). We are not back to pre-Ike prices, but I'm glad it has not continued to rise.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

10/11/08 update - last night the local news reported that NC has the highest gas prices in the country. While visiting my dad last weekend in eastern NC, I was so excited to find gas at $3.59 a gallon that I filled up, though I had more than half a tank. I had seen gas still at $4.09 in Wake Forest just a few days earlier. Last night we filled up for $3.64 in Wake Forest, and on the way to Durham I saw gas ranging from $3.59 to $3.69. Still, lots of stations are running out of gas on a regular basis. Yes, prices are slowly dropping, but why so slowly? Why is NC still having a "supply" problem?


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

My sister just called from the beach - $2.89 at White's Convenience in Mann's Harbor! It's lower here too - I think I saw $3.49 yesterday (didn't write it down). So, we have dropped, as of 10/17/08, below pre-Ike prices.


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina Author

update - 11/11/08 - I filled my tank up for less than $50 this weekend! I paid $2.23 a gallon, and local news is reporting that one BP in Raleigh has gas for under $2 a gallon. I'm glad to see the prices coming down, but I'm still shaking my head in bewilderment. I just don' understand the market. At all.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working