The effects of September’s hurricanes were still being felt across the southeast last week. While the refineries are nearly all back on line, 40 percent of the Gulf’s normal offshore production is still shut-in. The DOE continues to release crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to make up for the shortfall. Gasoline shortages are expected to continue for another two weeks, but appear to be easing. At the height of the shortages, police were called to gas stations dozens of times to break up fights and settle disputes. Most involved cutting into line.
Questions are being raised about whether government officials did all they could to mitigate the fuel shortages and whether anything can be done to improve the situation when the next hurricane hits the Gulf coast. Officials point out that storing significant amounts of extra gasoline in local tank farms would be prohibitively expensive. They also note that the changeover to non-attended, credit-card operated gas pumps in the last 20 years has made it difficult to enforce odd-even days or minimum purchases as attendants would have to be hired to monitor the pumps during shortages. Some areas are looking at ways to move gasoline inland from coastal cities that get their fuel shipments by tanker or barge and are not as dependent on Gulf refineries and pipelines.