In the days after Harvey, gas stations across Texas are experiencing long lines and price increase as rumors and speculations of gas shortages arise over social media and word of mouth.
Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton addressed the ongoing fears of gas shortages throughout Texas, in a live press conference.
Here is a list of topics Sitton covered:
Are we in a gas shortage?
According to Sitton, Texas is not in a gas shortage.
“In Texas, there are about 15 refineries that either have been taken down due to the hurricane or at reduced capacity, which equates to 2 million barrels of gasoline a day,” Sittion said.
From these refineries, 2 million barrels of gasoline a day are out of production, however, 230 million barrels of gasoline remain in inventory. There is not a gasoline storage.
Speculation could occur that if the 230 million barrels were consumed, then a gas shortage would be possible. However, the refineries closed by Harvey’s affects are in motions to become operational again.
“Three in Corpus Christi, and one north of Corpus Christi in a little town called Three Rivers,” Sittion said. “Those are all ready to come back online. They’re starting them up now. They are working on the logistics at the port.”
How did this happen?
Rumors, social media and speculations caused a public outcry. People began believing that gas stations were going to run out, or get more expensive by the minute.
Sittion said the rapid acceleration of claims caused demand to overpower supply.
“Yesterday and today, stations experienced six to seven times demand on every gas station,” Sittion said. “Even if the refineries were all running, we would be running into this issue.”
How is gas transferred?
Sittion explained the process in which gas is transferred.
“Every gas station in the United States, especially Texas, is filled by a truck,” Sittion said. “A truck comes from some sort of distribution center terminal, that is either filled by bigger tucks or trains, usually by pipelines. Trucks come by, get gasoline and take that to stations.”
The trucks move on intervals. For example, a truck might come to San Marcos every week, with a designated amount of gas. Whether the station is empty or full, the trucks continue their routs distributing the gas.
Sittion mentioned that gas stations were trying to restock its supply while waiting for its distributors interval.
“Valero has got more refineries in United States and Texas than anyone else,” Sitton said. “They’re talking to alternative sources to get gasoline. They are working right now to get those.”
Is this just a way for gas companies to make money?
Rumors have speculated that gas stations are increasing the cost to make a profit.
Sitton said Attorney General Ken Paxton is researching the issues, and every price gouging claim made.
Price gouging is illegal, and the office of the attorney general has authority to prosecute any business that engages in price gouging after a disaster has been declared by the governor.
“If you’re seeing $10 gasoline, it sounds a lot like gauging,” Sitton said.
A complaint for price gouging can be made on the attorney general’s website.
The office of the attorney general has reported over 500 complains about price gouging.
Is this normal?
Gas prices fluctuate because of seasonal demand and competition between local retail fueling stations. Gasoline prices jumped 40 cents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
What should we do?
Sittion asked Texans to allow the system to catch up to itself.
“Be patient. These logistical issues will be resolved,” Sittion said. “You’re talking about a number of days. It may be two, three, four days before most of your gas stations are getting refueled. Only the outliers will take much longer than that.”
Again, the railroad commissioner restated that there is not a gas storage issue.
“The level of concern is out stripping the level of issue.”