Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hurricane madness and gas prices

Funny how the hurricane affected so many people from such a wide distance this time with Hurricane Ike. I live in the state of TN, and normally we may get some rain after the storm has turned into a tropical depression.

This time, we didn't get much more than a few clouds. I never dreamt it could affect me personally. So I watched on the news from a distance, feeling sorry for the people that had lots their homes, their livelihoods, and some even lost their lives. I know that many gas stations had emptied out on the exit route of the people evacuating TX.

Then at the beginning of the next week, I had to fill up for gas and realized it affected me too. People had made a run on the gas stations days before the storm hit. Not that I noticed. I try not to panic in situations like this, but this was not good. It was complete chaos.

Gas prices shot up $1-$1.5 a gallon. In one day! Ouch. When the news says that gas went up $0.15 a gallon on average across the nation because of the hurricane, that says that the South took most of the hit. The rest of the country isn't as affected.

I went to a few stations, shopping for the lowest price of course, only to discover that quite a few gas stations were completely sold out. Cars were circling the driveways because there was no way to know they were out of gas until you got to the pump. They never took down the signs. What is up with that? Finally I gave up and paid over $4.5 a gallon just to get what a gas station had left. Premium gas.

It turns out this could be blamed on many problems. People rushing to fill up all their cars at once was a problem, but so is having no reserves.

90% of the gas we depend on here in the Southeast is from the Gulf. I have a friend who works on a rig all the way into Louisiana. They are being paid to stay home. Texas isn't the only problem. Although it would help if they could get the electrical turned back on at the refineries.

They say that the price gouging laws will protect us, but do they really? First off, the consumers have to watchdog and turn those gas stations in. Second off, they don't return the money to the consumer. The heavy fines get paid to the government, so who benefits really? And if the government listens to the consumers whining about their wallet and their financial crisis, and imlements a price control over gas, that would limit the quantity of gas we could receive or that the big oil companies would be willing to sell to us as a state. It's a no-win situation. We have to pay what they charge us.

Gas is one of those non-elastic products. You need gas to get to work. You use the same amount whether the price is low or high. So the oil companies will have to raise prices in order to raise profits.

Makes me wonder how long this man-made emergency will last. I hope everyone in the affected areas will be able to go about their lives as normal again very soon. I am sorry about the people in TX and what happened. They were the first to open their doors to the people who were affected by Katrina. Now they are suffering too.

Along with the rest of the South.

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