Gas shortages are already happening

  • Indianapolis
  • Central Florida
  • Charlotte, NC ("I'm not asking anybody to panic," said Gov. Mike Easley. "If I find out we need to panic, I'll come back and tell you tomorrow.")
  • Phoenix ("Circle K Stores reported outages at ten to 15-percent of its 256 service stations in Maricopa County.")
  • Central Maryland ("I don't know when I'll get gas again," said one station owner in Laurel, Md.)
  • Dearborn Heights, MI ("I told them, '(We're) almost out of the gas. When are you going to send it?' El Jalal said. "He told me, 'We are behind two days.")

I'll try to update this, but have you experienced a shortage in your town? (more incidents under the fold).

  • East Texas (Frances Brown, Chevron cashier, said, "Monday, they had some customers come in here and actually threaten the morning cashiers, because we were out of gas and they wanted their gas. There's nothing we can do about that.") (!!)
  • Wilmington, NC
  • Milwaukee, WI (Robert Budzynski watched the driver ahead of him fill his tank, but when the retired sheet metal worker got to the pump and squeezed the handle, nothing came out. "I went inside and said, 'The pump isn't working' and was told it's probably out of gas. I said, 'Come on, the man in front of me just filled up and drove away,' " said Budzynski, of Milwaukee.)
  • Kentucky
  • Colorado Springs ("It’s really rare for us to completely run out of all three grades," she said. "I can’t remember the last time it happened.")
  • Columbus, GA (no real shortages reported, but an interesting account of what happens when people fear outages or rationing)

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Ah, We Are Screwed.

Some of this seems like gloating over the corpse.
Hey, I'm not gloating. I'm just aggregating the news for y'all. Let discussion ensue.
C'mon Ianqui, you know what I mean.
Just making sure...
Excuse my intrusion, but I honestly don't know what you meant by "Some of this seems like gloating over the corpse."  I'm NOT trying to pick a fight; I merely want to know what you meant, and I take you at your word that you weren't accusing Ianqui of gloating over the corpse.
Lou, you and I have been posting here a while. And we both know that we "peak oil" people have known for some time that it only takes one big event to push things over the edge. That event has occurred. It is not the final event, but it is a significant signpost of things to come.

My point was this: we were and are right about the inexorable unfolding of events and it is sad, but it is also sometimes very satisfying in some egotistical kind of way to be right, to say "I told you so...." That would be "gloating" as I used it. Certainly, I was not saying ianqui was doing any such thing by soliciting reports on ongoing shortages.

Its important to remember that people like Ben Bernanke (all is calm, the economy will push on) are vying for Alan Greenspan's job.

I wonder if any of these potential candidates have private moments these days where they wonder if they want to be the steward of the economy. Unfortunately, reading through the many tea leaves of Greenspan and other Fed governors, I don't think any of them believe we can possibly be facing an energy crunch - now - next year - next decade - ever.

But Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the White House, said opening the reserves would help companies "produce more gasoline and help alleviate some of the shortages". [mw: clearly Bernanke knows nothing about energy, just like Greenspan]

Philadelphia Federal Reserve president Anthony Santomero said the effects of Katrina were likely to impede but not halt the economy.

"The US economy has proven to be surprisingly capable of absorbing such shocks, and after a short period, the effects of Katrina are likely to slow but not stall the forward progress of the national economy," he said.

Several economists, however, fretted that Katrina could hurt growth in the third quarter to September.

That's the problem - much of the financial establishment thinks about issues on a quarter by quarter basis only... not out 1, 2, 5, 10 years.

Dave - I think I know what you are saying but I don't agree with your interpretation. If you think people are going to draw a Peak Oil lesson from this I think you are setting yourself up for disappointment. This is going to be seen as a refinery problem, not a shortage of oil. The message I am getting from the media is that there is enough oil (especially with the release from the SPR) but that refineries are damaged leading to gasoline shortages. Today for the first time in a long time, gasoline futures moved way up while oil took a pretty solid drop. Those two almost always move in tandem. It is further evidence that this is not an oil shortage, it is a gasoline shortage. I think that's how people are going to see it.
As I was getting ready to leave the house where I'm working this week (in Atlanta), the homeowner asked if I had gas in my truck. He said that some gas stations were out of gas and at all the others there were long lines. I had just filled up last night, so I didn't have a problem getting home.

The cheapest (regular unleaded) gas I saw on the way home was $1.80, and the highest was $3.00. I did see lines and people filling not only their cars, but also spare gas cans.


I wonder if it would be worth the seventeen hour drive to get some of that?

Probably not.

We haven't seen anything below $2.00 in weeks, if not months.  Cheapest regular gas in Houston is 2.40, and 3.30+ has been reported at more than one station.  We fully expect prices to rise tomorrow.

Oh, there's nothing at all wrong with the Houston infrastructure, and we have more than our share of refineries nearby... :)

(I've yet to see any "out of gas" warnings or even long lines, yet)

Prices here on the west coast of Canada over the last week or two have been hovering around 1.08 a litre CAD (roughly * 4 to get your US price, somewhat less), as "low" as 0.98 a litre.

This morning - 1.12. Not a big jump; we will not have shortages here, unless people freak out.

I recall the OPEC induced shortages in the US - watching film of the line ups; we did not experience that in Canada of course, but the entire event did also modify behaviour here.... Pinto's (to explode) and Vega's, and a lot of Datsuns and Toyotas and Mazdas were bought in the years to come.. for some time really, especially here in the west where we've always been a little more enviro conscious (and don't have the snow of the rest of Canada).

Another cycle to come.

Feeling good about the car I sold over a year ago in anticipation of this...

The CBS news tonight showed a gas station sign that they said was in the Atlanta area--regular was $5.87(!).

Assuming this was caused by area shortages, I have to wonder how the station owner (or whomever was resonsible) came up with that exact number.  I mean, once you're sure you can sell at that price, why not go for an even $6?

As with the immediate days following 9/11, I'm sure there will be gas station owners charged for price gouging.  Gas stations are allow a maximum 6% profit on gasoline.  The owner of the gas station charging $5.87 must have been charged a wholesale price $5.54.  Either that, or he was breaking the law.  Once all the excitement and confusion of immediate affects of the hurricane subside, investigations will begin.  People will be held responsible for their actions.
Kinder Morgan, who operates the Plantation pipeline to the southeast, said they are at 25% capacity, with full capacity after electricity is restored to Collins. =

So things in Georgia and Florida might be a little tight for a little while.

We jumped 20 cents today in Colorado at my usual spot. I filled up yesterday.
No shortages in Boston that I've heard of, but there are plenty of stations at $3.35 for self-serve regular. Hess stations still seem to all be around $2.55 - $2.60 for now, and that's the lowest I've seen. Don't mean for this to become a "post your gas prices" thread, but the jump is about $.50 in two days for many of these stations.
Well, actually this is interesting. Some places will have shortages and others will not. Right now, this depends on the upstream supplier, who may or may not have been impacted by the storm. Overall, this will come into balance at a much higher price >$4.00/gallon over the next couple of weeks.
Not sure if this qualifies but Orange County, FLA is out of gas for their busses (diesel, I imagine) and have informed parents they get to be responsible for transport as soon as Friday.  Their contractor hasn't delivered their latest shipment.

Plenty of gloomy stories.  Search Google News for "out of gas"

Just to clariy, shortages are short-term events (next few days, week at most) in this situation unless the distribution system can not adjust to the new circumstances in that timeframe. Assuming that a suitable adjustment will be made, I predict that there will be no shortages after a week or so anywhere but gasoline prices will be universally higher at the price (>$4.00/gallon) I am predicting. I may be being a little optimistic about the flexibility of the delivery system.
I think you've got it pegged, Dave. The market will be very chaotic for a few days, but then that ol' devil The Price Mechanism will help even out supply, but at a financial cost.

Your price prediction of over $4 feels about right, too.  I suspect the price will only stay that high for a few weeks and then drift downward as refinery capacity starts to trickle back online.

I wonder how long it will take for auto accessory stores to start selling heavy locking gas caps, as they did during the first two oil shocks (to help deter gasoline thieves).  (And yes, I'm old enough to remember both shocks, although I was only driving for the second one.)

Yes, I didn't say the price would stay there, that's just my peak prediction over the next 2 or 3 weeks.
There selling locking caps in the midwest already.  Started about a month ago when gas stayed over $2.00.
Average prices greater than $4.00? I don't buy it. I'll say $3.50 to $3.75 is the post-storm trauma peak, after which it dips a bit before returning to its inexorable rise.
We'll see who's wrong and who's right soon enough, won't we?

Any bookie in the room? ;-P

Yes we will or as the Rolling Stones put it, "Tiiiiime, is on my side, oh yes it is" :) No seriously, it may only be $3.75/gallon or something like that, as if that's not bad enough....
Bad enough?

"Tell that to Europeans" is the standard answer.

I'll bet a lot of people are out there getting gas even when they wouldn't normally do so, because of fears of shortages - and these actions are actually causing the shortages!

I haven't filled up any of my 3 cars for days and I don't intend to. I think they all have less than half a tank now.

We're trying to reduce driving as much as possible, and using the better mileage vehicles when possible. Today I needed to go to the local university library, five miles away, so I rode my bike instead of driving.

I biked past the gas station closest to my house to see how things were doing, and it was $3.04 for unleaded regular. Felt pretty good going past on the bike.

I'm with you halfin. If everyone acted as you do, there'd be no lines and prices would be lower. There certainly is hoarding going on, especially given the reports above of people whipping out gas containers at the pump. I also expect to see more reports of gas being stolen from stations and parked cars.
"I biked past the gas station closest to my house to see how things were doing, and it was $3.04 for unleaded regular. Felt pretty good going past on the bike."

I bet it did! I got a warm feeling just reading that.

I hope lots of people will re-discover those things called "walking" and "biking"...

Go register for Cycling 101.
I use my bike everyday since february. I know the feeling very well!
I rode my bike past a guy running a leaf-blower over his downtown sidewalk.  I thought, "What is wrong with this picture?"
Today on off brand gas station which is usually the cheapest in the area (NY/NJ) was charging $3.16 for regular unleaded.  Others were charging $2.75 or so. There's a great commentary in the April 19, 2005 Austin Chronicle under columns and features, Letters at 3 AM called $4 a Gallon by Michael Ventura.  I'm not that good with computers and don't know how to post the link.  Sorry.  There is a link under Life After the Oil Crash
I love it when public officials tell people not to panic in a situation like this. Yeah, right. After all, if you have an insecure job in today's economy, and if you don't have transit that can take you there, and it's impractical or unsafe to bike there, then you definitely don't want to be the first one in your office or crew to not have gas!
More info from the Times-Picayune on energy restoration:
The 6,000 power line workers currently assembled in southeastern Louisiana won't be nearly enough to restore electricity to the 990,000 customers still without power in metropolitan New Orleans, the region's suppliers said Wednesday.

But getting more workers to the area might be impossible until late this week. That's because many utility crews from neighboring states are still restoring power to southern Florida, which was hit surprisingly hard by Katrina when she crossed the state nearly a week ago, said Chanel Lagarde, spokesman for Entergy Corp., Louisiana's power supplier.

"There are severe limits on resources at this point," he said. "We are told that the utilities in Florida are expected to wrap up later this week. Many of those (workers) will come directly here or to the east" in coastal Mississippi and Alabama.

The atmosphere of near-anarchy in New Orleans is another major concern, said Arthur Wiese Jr., vice president of corporate communications for Entergy.

"We can't send workers out and put their lives in jeopardy," he said late Wednesday afternoon from the one of the company's storm command centers in Jackson, Miss. "Once we have facilities back operating, we have to know that our workers can get to work safely.

"We are as alarmed as anyone over the chaos in the city. It is a very serious question," Wiese said.

Those problems further validated earlier predictions by Entergy managers that many people in the hardest-hit parts of the state could be without electricity for a month or more.

Flooding and road blockage from debris remained the most immediate barriers to repair crews moving into the most damaged parts of the region.

Also, Entergy itself has said
The mass evacuation from the Metro New Orleans area has put extreme pressure on all housing options and fuel availability. Crews that we have sent in to some of the stricken areas are sleeping in their trucks. Public facilities such as parking lots, schools, etc. are also being used by relief agencies and or other public entities to handle the public evacuation.

Fuel trucks that we would normally depend on are being directed by federal and state agencies to support their public emergency needs first, leaving us short of fuel in some areas to support our restoration crews.

There's definitely a big compounding effect between the different infrastructures in the area. Can't fix the roads without fuel. Can't pump fuel without electricity. Can't get to the refineries without roads. Can't fix the electricity without fuel and roads. Can't co-ordinate without phones. Can't run the phones without electricity. Can't fix anything without workers. Hard to run workers into areas with no food or safe water, and inadequate public safety.

No doubt most things will get fixed eventually, but it's going to be vastly slower than if only one infrastructure was down.

It's gridlock, in a way.  In other words, things will get worse before they get better.
Oh man, this is truly screwed up, everything has broken down.... I think the timeframe on this is months just for the Entergy issues. It's hard to be optimistic about this. It's completely broken.
The zone of no (fuel, electricity, roads) is bounded.  It has an edge.  Repairs can progress from this edge inwards.

This is how the recovery from the 8/14/03 power failure was handled in my area; power was brought back to areas in waves progressing from the edges of the blacked-out zone towards the core.

Thanks for giving a great example of the matrix I mentioned in yesterday's thread. The very complex interdependencies become snafus when a key component is disrupted. It's the bane that can only be overcome by simplifications in the matrix's complexity, and can only come about through sustainable localities.
Reading these posts and reports, we see that there is a great deal of volatility in local prices by supplier. As I said earlier, this is due to short-term upstream effects from the hurricane. This will all settle down shortly (next week or so). I guess I'm mostly interested in what the bottom-line average price will be 2 weeks from now.

I am also very interested to see what the depth of the coming recession will be given these prices. Believe me, that recession is coming up fast (by end October). Another prediction, I'm afraid. Time will tell.
Weighing in from Orange County, CA, some recent prices for super unleaded at my usual shell station:

8/29/2005:  $2.999/gal (unchanged for ~2 weeks)
8/30/2005:  $3.059/gal
8/31/2005:  $3.129/gal

For those from Merced :) , that's +$0.13 in two days.


You think that's something?  Oakland County, MI went from the neighborhood of $2.699 to $3.199 in 2 days.

I know a couple people who carpool 130 miles a day, and the driver bought a Hyundai Sonata rather than e.g. a Prius or Jetta TDI because the lower mileage was outweighed by the cheaper purchase price.  He may be regretting that decision in the months to come.

No shortages, but Marathon-Ashland, the local commercial fueling company stopped selling to any 'non-contract' customers. This has infuriated many construction/excavation companies.

I am riding my bike tomorrow anyway.

Here in North Carolina Governor Easley has asked people to conserve gas. He said our last delivery by pipeline was on Sunday, but that because most stations had a weeks worth of reserves it wasn't an emergency, yet. Knowing what a mess things are in Louisiana, I'm not comforted.
Here in the suburbs of Chicago, gasoline has jumped 27 to 40 cents between Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening. I bought gas Tuesday evening for 2.699/gal; that station was charging 3.099/gal Wednesday evening.

One station went from 2.859 Wednesday morning to 3.129 Wedneday evening. Another went from 2.899 Wednesday morning to 3.259 Wednesday evening.

$4.00/gal can't be far off ...

Slightly more optimistic information on electricity from the NYT.
Many of Entergy's biggest industrial customers take power directly from the large transmission lines that run from Baton Rouge, La., to New Orleans. Those lines had been built to withstand 150 m.p.h. winds and were among the first restored to full service on Tuesday, according to George Bartlett, Entergy's director of transmission operations. He said that he expected most refiners and manufacturers in the corridor to be able to resume business and that some had already done so.

Mr. Bartlett said that refineries owned by Exxon Mobil and Murphy Oil were the only major ones situated south of New Orleans, an area where marshy conditions had forced the company to build less storm-resistant transmission lines. Entergy has made helicopter surveys of those lines and hopes soon to complete projections about when they can be restored.

But things are worse in Mississippi:
The Mississippi Power unit of the Southern Company appears to have been the hardest-hit utility. Katrina damaged 70 percent of its 8,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines and blacked out all 195,000 of its customers in southeastern Mississippi, the company said. A generating station just east of Gulfport, Miss., was knocked out by flooding.

"It may take as long as four weeks to restore service in the worst-hit areas," said Michael L. Tyndall, a Southern Company spokesman. As of yesterday, only about 5,000 Mississippi Power customers in Meridian, an inland city, were back online.

Help is arriving:
Convoys of utility trucks and reinforcement workers from as far away as Massachusetts and Ohio are arriving in the gulf states to help restore electricity to the estimated 1.6 million household and business customers still without power in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Some, like the thousands transferred by the Southern Company, are on loan from other branches of big utility conglomerates with a presence in the storm-damaged region. Others, like the 10 two-man truck units dispatched from New York City by Consolidated Edison have been sent with the industry's tacit understanding that no company is an island on the weather-vulnerable power grid.

The NYT also has good coverage of freight transport:
As ports remained closed from Louisiana to Florida on Wednesday, some 300 barges containing grains and other products were left homeless.

Under the management of Cargill, a large agriculture producer and exporter, the barges were caught in a bottleneck caused by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Now they are floating on rivers north of New Orleans with nowhere to go.

Two days after one of the worst storms ever ravaged the Gulf Coast, large parts of the nation's distribution system were feeling the effects. Major transportation arteries were clogged, and imports and exports had slowed to a crawl. The logistical logjam could delay the production of hundreds of everyday products. The result is that consumers, even those far from the storm's epicenter, might have to pay more for everything from coffee and bananas to paint and tires.

It's still unclear if the situation is going to cause major problems or not:
Grains are the largest export likely to be affected by the devastation to the ports, because they are so dependent on the river barge system. In July, about half of the country's grain exports were shipped from the Mississippi River gulf outlet, said David D. Lehman, managing director for commodities at the Chicago Board of Trade. "Those facilities are all without power and could be impacted by the flooding," he said.

"If this is a 5- to 10-day problem, it won't significantly impact the grain markets," Mr. Lehman said. If it is longer, then importers will start switching to buying from other ports, mostly likely along the West Coast.

But with gasoline and diesel prices being sharply affected by the loss of refining capacity caused by the storm, shifting to other ports will create costly logistical complications that will probably be passed to consumers in the form of higher prices, shipping firms said.

David Feider, a spokesman for Cargill, said it was "not feasible" to divert grain shipments to trucks or trains because of the high cost and the loading infrastructure required.

There's at least some damage to the shipping channels themselves:
Coast Guard officials said that they were finishing underwater surveys of shipping channels. So far they have found an unusual amount of soil and sand build-up, and a number of buoys and other navigational aides either missing, destroyed or misplaced, creating the potential for ships to run aground, said Petty Officer John Miller, a Coast Guard spokesman. Some ships struggled with the question of whether to divert to other ports.
Seems like all this is going to worsen the trade deficit. We'll need to import more oil and probably finished petroleum products too. We might not be able to export grain. We'll still be able to import consumer goods from China to the west coast, and will tend to want to do a lot of that due to the rebuilding.
yep, that idea came to mind earlier...lots more Chinese goods coming into Pacific ports...
Oil companies are having trouble finding their people, says
Oil and gas companies are stepping up efforts to reach hundreds of employees who remain unaccounted for days after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf of Mexico.

Companies want their workers to call hotlines posted on company Web sites or, at the very least, get word to supervisors through someone that they're safe. Companies also want to let workers know about housing and other assistance available to them, should they need it.

"There is an urgency to hear from them, but we have to be patient because the devastation is so severe that their first priority is taking care of their family and personnel needs," said John Hofmeister, president of Houston-based Shell Oil Co.

Shell's workforce in the Gulf is about 4,500 people, some of whom work on refineries shut down in Convent, La., and Norco, La.

Hofmeister said it's especially difficult to learn what's going on because of restricted access to the hardest hit areas.

San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. also plans to provide assistance, "financial or otherwise," the company said in a statement.

Valero is preparing to offer temporary housing help by setting up trailers near its St. Charles refinery when it opens within the next two weeks.

Here in Los Angeles, regular has been $2.50-2.70 for a while. I just saw the first over $3.00 price today, $3.19 for premium.

I'm glad I bought my hybrid Prius in 2001. I get 46 MPG in L.A. traffic. My wife owns a VW bug diesel and gets about 40 mpg, and with this latest price spike, diesel is now a bit less than premium - a week or two ago,it was way more.

In Maryville, TN, there were lines 8-10 deep at my normal gas station, which had a sign saying they would be closing early due to gas shortages. It definitely felt more like a psychological reaction more than a rational one; at this supermarket station, a frequent shopper discount gets you gas about 10c/gal cheaper than other places (currently that means $2.90/gal).

Despite having my kids in the car for the 30 minute wait for gas, I was calm, as was everyone else. As Halfin and others noted, this will be told as a story of refinery capacity (probably so environmental regs can be gutted). What will be interesting (from the point of view of a non-trader who tends to think aobut long term issues) will be whether or not prices return to the pre-Katrina levels, or simply trend at this new level.

According to the London Times the effect of the American shortages
is to cause buying on the European markets and is likely to drive UK
prices up to GBP1/litre that is $6.93/US Gallon,,11069-1759269,00.html
I read three comments in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this morning that said people saw $6 gas last night.  The lines and the prices are back down this morning however.  I don't know how many stations sold out but from the word of mouth it sounded like quite a few.  And some were closing at 5:00 PM and rationing 10 gallon maximum sales.

I am looking for information on the pipeline status to the Atlanta area.  Anybody have a source?  

I've heard on local Phoenix news radio that some stations are running out of regular gas. I haven't bought any myself yet this week. I'll try tonight.

I'm not letting my tank get less than half empty anymore.


I am concerned about the cost of home heating oil this winter.  Normally, folks here buy a set amount at a contract price to cushion themselves from rising prices over the winter.  Not one of the ten heating oil dealers I talk to yesterday and today are offering contracts this winter.  
For once California is a bargain. Although some stations in the S.F. Bay Area have gone above $3.00, there are still others selling regular in the upper $2.60s and $2.70s.
Gasoline is currently about $6.40 a gallon here. We haven't seen a $2 gallon for years.

I live in Britain, land of £0.93 a litre petrol!

Here in Lexington and nearby Buena Vista, VA, most regular gas is at $3.29/G, with the highest I've seen $3.39. One sta. ran out of regular at 2.99, and was selling Premium at 1.599/1/2G. His pumps couldn't be set to more than 2.99, so he was doubling the pump $ amount for 3.20/G yesterday.

Another sta in BV was also sold out today. Haven't seen any others out.