Gas prices expected to rise soon

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 23, 2005

As Hurricane Rita barreled closer to the Gulf Coast of Texas on Thursday, Suffolk residents began filling their gas tanks in anticipation of spiking fuel prices.

A line of cars snaked around the pumps at Southern Convenience Store on North Main Street early Thursday morning, as employee Suzanne Stengler began changing the prices posted outside the store.

&uot;They are going up about 4 cents a gallon,&uot; Stengler said. &uot;Everybody has been filling up with gas. It’s been crazy around here today.&uot;

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As he waited to fill up his truck, Ernest Sawyer, who works across the street at Duke Oldsmobile, agreed.

&uot;It’s been like this all morning,&uot; he said. &uot;People are getting ready for prices to rise again because of the hurricane.&uot;

Things were equally hectic at the Murphy Oil gas station outside Wal-Mart on North Main, where prices climbed 10 cents overnight.

&uot;Thursday is usually one of our busiest days,&uot; said employee Sherita Woods. &uot;But it has been a tad bit busier than usual today.&uot;

On Tuesday, several major oil companies upped their prices by 25 cents per gallon based on expectations that the hurricane, which is expected to make landfall near Galveston, Texas, early Saturday, will damage major oil facilities in and around Houston, said Michael J. O’Connor, president of the Virginia Petroleum Convenience and Grocery Association in Richmond.

The Colonial and Plantation pipelines, which originate in the Houston area, supply more than 80 percent of oil to Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states, said O’Connor. Texas oil refineries supply 25 percent of the nation’s oil.

&uot;That dependency makes us particularly vulnerable to the shutdown of the pipelines,&uot; he said. &uot;…There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about how long it will take to get the pipelines up and going again if the power is out for awhile.&uot;

The oil companies usually deal with supply shortages by giving local vendors a percentage of their usual daily supply, O’Connor said.

Thus far, no rationing has been put in place.

Much of trading in the petroleum industry is based on rumor and fear, said David Holland, president of Southern Oil Co.

&uot;Seeing a storm like this in the Gulf set the petroleum market on fire this week,&uot; he said.

&uot;We were happy because prices were finally starting to come down because of Katrina and we get hit with this.

&uot;…I hope we’ll see prices start to decrease within two weeks after the storm.&uot;

Meanwhile, local motorists say they are coping with rising prices by changing their driving habits.

&uot;I’m filling up today because this happens to be a bargain,&uot; said Martha Wilkins. &uot;I’ve tried to make changes since gas prices began going up.&uot;

&uot;I consolidate trips, think twice before running into town and try to combine trips with family and friends.&uot;