- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2005

The price of regular gasoline soared as much as 40 cents in the Washington region overnight as oil refineries along the Gulf of Mexico remained closed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“Hurricane Katrina really hit at the heart of our refinery capabilities and our distributing capabilities,” said John Townsend, a AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman. “It’s going to have an impact on all of us.”

The pipelines and eight refineries shut down by the storm remained closed. Some wholesalers and refiners were restricting the amount of fuel retailers could buy, and gas lines were forming in some cities.

The Bush administration yesterday said it would tap into the emergency Strategic Petroleum Reserve and eased some fuel-emissions standards to try to avert a further spike in the price of gasoline.

Price jumps between Tuesday and yesterday in the Washington area were as minor as 5 cents and as severe as AAA’s reports of 40 cents.

At a Shell station in Annandale, the price climbed 12 cents to $2.81. At an Exxon Mobil station down the street, it rose 20 cents to $2.91.

“We cannot do nothing,” Shell station owner Mike Saab said. “We can’t buy it high and sell it low. We have to make a living.”

At an Exxon Mobil station on Route 355 in Rockville, an owner who declined to be named said station owners make 13 cents on the gallon when customers pay cash and 5 cents when customers pay with credit cards. In 1973, he made 11 cents per gallon.

“It’s hard,” he said. “People think we’re the ones raising the price. It’s the suppliers.”

Gasoline for September delivery rose 14 cents, or 5.7 percent, to close at a record $2.61 per gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday. The price of gasoline has more than doubled in the past year.

At the BP station on Woodfield Road in Gaithersburg, regular gas rose 18 cents to $2.97. The cost to the station had risen 25 cents, an employee said, because BP refineries in Texas City, Texas, and a few in Florida are closed.

“They’re having a hard time getting fuel out this way,” said the employee, who asked not to be named.

But that doesn’t mean motorists are happy to pay more.

Diane, a Fairfax resident who didn’t want her last name to be mentioned, said she already started to cut down on unnecessary trips.

“I’ll order more stuff online,” she said at the Shell station in Annandale. “I can’t Christmas shop how I normally do if the gas prices continue like this.”

She plans to make only one more trip to visit her grandchildren in Atlanta this year. She wanted to drive there twice this year.

“Dang, it’s high,” said Keishel Moffett as he exited his sport utility vehicle, his face forming into a scowl.

“It’s killing me, but I don’t have a far commute, so it could be worse,” said Mr. Moffett, a marketing manager pumping gas in Gaithersburg. “But it’s just crazy. Just like everybody else, I don’t have as much disposable income as I used to, because it’s all going into my gas tank.”

Some, like Elmer Andina, said they were starting to look for a second job to soften the impact on their pocketbooks.

“Right now, it’s going crazy — look at it,” he said, pointing at the prices on the station’s sign.

Mr. Andina, 40, lives in Rockville and drives a truck to support his wife and two children.

“I’ve got to look for another job because it’s too expensive,” he said, filling up the family station wagon.

Sylvia Casaro of North Potomac said the high prices will eat away at her disposable income, too.

“I have to cut down on the more superfluous things,” she said as she pumped $2.79-per-gallon gasoline at a Shell station in the Four Corners area of Silver Spring.

Prices are expected to continue to climb.

“That’s why I’m topping off now,” said John Spera, a Bethesda designer who drives to clients all over the area. “A whopping 9 gallons for $20.”

“I’d love to buy a motorcycle,” Mr. Spera said of a more fuel-efficient alternative to driving. “But my wife won’t let me.”

Jon Ward contributed to this report.

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