North Texas Temporarily Runs Low on Gas in Hurricane Harvey’s Aftermath

Gas Shortage
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Anyone who got behind the wheel in Dallas on Thursday morning saw unusually long lines at gas stations, higher prices, and “out of service” bags placed on pumps that ran out of gasoline altogether–but experts say there is no gas shortage in Dallas or Texas.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, gas supplies in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and other parts of the state ran low because record rainfall hit the heart of the U.S. oil industry, causing shutdowns and outages in Houston area refineries that represent roughly 15 percent of the nation’s total refining capacity.

“There’s plenty of gasoline,” said Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton. “This will subside.”

The Texas Railroad Commission is the agency that regulates the oil and gas industry in the state. Sitton told WFAA that there is no fuel crisis in Dallas or Texas. He said that as news spread about refineries shutting down along the Gulf Coast because of the hurricane, fears over gas shortages sparked hyper-demand at the pump.

“Concerns and even panic over gasoline shortages are leading to a sense there’s a gasoline shortage,” said the commissioner. “When, in fact, there isn’t one.”

Sitton says he understands how people feel when they drive up to a gas station and see high prices, long lines, and red or yellow bags over the pumps. Still, he maintained that gas shortage rumors and news reports fueled much higher volume of car owners filling up their tanks. In turn, gas stations ran out of gas at a higher rate based on that demand. Station owners, worried about gas supply, raised prices. Sitton said these shortages are only temporary in Dallas. This hold true for elsewhere in Texas where people experience a “run on the pump.”

Bernard Weinstein with Southern Methodist University’s Maguire Energy Institute agrees that panic is driving the shortage. “Many stations are out of product because people have panicked,” he told KTVT. “So everybody with a half a tank is filling up, creating lines, and draining tanks at gas stations.” He said there is no need for “panic purchases.”

Given that Harvey knocked the nation’s two largest oil refineries offline temporarily, Weinstein acknowledged there is a “limited supply of product” but anticipated the “so-called shortage” to be gone by “mid next week.”

Still, Dallasites and other North Texans felt the pinch at the pump Thursday. The nationwide average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $2.45, according to AAA. In Texas, that price is $2.21. As fears of fuel shortages drove people out to gas stations over the week, prices spiked about 17 cents per gallon. Gas Buddy listed regular at one Dallas Shell at $3.57 a gallon. Reportedly, a 76 station in Garland jacked up its price for regular to $8 per gallon.

Attorney General Ken Paxton responded to the news of $6 and $8 per gallon gas prices around the Metroplex and the state. He issued a warning to gas stations against taking advantage of Texas consumers.

“Texas law protects consumers from fraud in Dallas and other parts of Texas outside of the governor’s declared disaster areas,” said Marc Rylander, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. The Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office received more than 500 complaints Thursday, many of which alleged propped up fuel prices in Dallas.

“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,” said Paxton in a statement. “The attorney general has issued stern warnings about price gouging to businesses in times of disaster, but you should still be on your guard.”

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