- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Motorists are facing higher fuel prices and the possibility of gas shortages as the effects of Hurricane Ike are felt across the country.

The combination of refineries shutting down in preparation for Ike and the problems they’ve experienced since the storm hit have caused pipelines to flow at a reduced rate, according to John Townsend.

American Petroleum Institute, said there are several problems that need to be addressed before refineries and pipelines can function normally.

“It’s not a flip of a switch,” she said, explaining that many refineries are still assessing hurricane damage and are without power and that only a few major refineries have reported initial inspection results.

Drivers saw the effects of the hurricane at the pumps Monday, the first business day after Ike struck the Gulf Coast.

“I did wonder how [Ike] was going to affect gas prices,” said Urban Alliance Foundation worker in the District who was filling up at a Hess station in Northeast. She added that she tries not to even think about gas prices, especially after a hurricane because she knows what she will see at the pump - more money spent.

Washington, said that right now, “you’ve got to deal with it.”

As more refineries assess damage and determine how much time it will take them to get back online, a more clear picture of Hurricane Ike’s effects will form, said Ms. Banaszak.

To ease the shock of the shut-down refineries, Environmental Protection Agency ethanol MTBE content requirements.

Mr. Bush said the hurricane’s toll on refineries and pipelines is creating “an upward pressure on price” for consumers.

“There’s going to be a pinch,” Mr. Bush said Monday after a briefing on hurricane-recovery efforts. “I wish it wasn’t the case, but it is.”

The president also said, though, that people should not be subjected to price gouging. The federal government is working with state leaders to monitor whether consumers are being charged unfairly high prices during the disruption in the energy supply.

On Monday, a gallon of regular rose half a penny overnight to a national average of $3.842 - up 16.7 cents from Friday, according to auto club AAA, the Wright Express.

Since the storm, prices have jumped above $5 per gallon in parts of the country, with huge disparities within some states and even some neighborhoods.

Mr. Townsend said to expect hiccups in the system until all of the pipelines are working normally again- which could take a few weeks.

For gas stations and consumers in Washington, waiting out the hiccups is easier said than done.

Parkway Shell manager Zee Malik said he considered the implications for his business as he watched the hurricane approach the refineries. He said he has been told that in a few days, he might not have a gas supply and the shortage could last for a week.

Lowest Price was also anticipating a spike in prices. Sales representative Edwin Ezenagu said he received calls Thursday night and again Friday morning telling him to increase the price, mostly in anticipation of the hurricane.

Now that Ike has passed, “They said we’re not expecting gas for maybe a long time,” he said.

Incidents like these prompted former President John Hofmeister to suggest short-term gas rationing for the next four to six weeks.

When asked about the possibility of gas rationing, Mr. Malik said he was not in favor of it, partly because anything that gets fewer people in his station is negative, as most of his money comes from convenience-store sales.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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