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Irma Brings Uncertainty of Regional Fuel Levels

AAA reports that the average national gas price is leveling out.
September 12, 2017

​WASHINGTON – For the first time in more than 15 days, AAA reported on Sept. 11 that the national gas price average appeared to be leveling out, despite Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma making landfall in the southeast over the weekend.

On Monday, AAA reported that the national average gas price was $2.67 per gallon, with Florida, Indiana and Georgia among the top 10 states that saw the largest gas price increases. AAA says that some states saw gas prices drop by one to six cents (Ohio, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware and Oklahoma).

Early reports indicate that Irma has left more than four million people without power, while water and debris cover roadways. Florida Power & Light (FPL) has 17,000 personnel from over 30 states on standby to aid restoration efforts. NACS spokesperson Jeff Lenard also spoke about the impact of the hurricanes on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” this week.

“There is not a gasoline shortage in the U.S., but instead localized challenges—power outages, impassable roads, debris—in Florida keeping gasoline supplies from where they are needed most,” said AAA Spokesperson Jeanette Casselano. “Total U.S. gasoline stocks sit above the five-year average. Since much of Florida’s gasoline delivery occurs via barge, all eyes will remain on port conditions as the storm passes.”

As of Monday, all Florida ports remained closed while some in North and South Carolina were open with restrictions. To alleviate supply disruptions, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security approved a Jones Act waiver last week.

As the Gulf Coast continues to recover from Hurricane Harvey, the Department of Energy reported at least five refineries in the Gulf Coast operating at reduced rates, which accounts for 8% of U.S. refining capacity. AAA says that six refineries are in the process of restarting, accounting for 12% of U.S. refining capacity. As of Monday, five refineries remained shut down, accounting for 6% of U.S. refining capacity. The Colonial Pipeline continues to experience a delivery delay of up to a week to Mid-Atlantic states.

“As refineries slowly come back online, states along the East Coast can expect gas prices to remain volatile as a result of already tight supply levels stemming from Harvey combined with the yet-to-be-known impact of Hurricane Irma,” added Casselano.

As of Sept. 11, AAA reports that 69% of gas stations in the U.S. were selling gas at $2.50 or more, and 7% listed gas at $3 or more.

AAA Quick Stats
The nation’s largest weekly increases: Florida (+7 cents), Indiana (+7 cents), Georgia (+7 cents), Arizona (+6 cents), Michigan (+6 cents), New Hampshire (+6 cents), Montana (+6 cents), New York (+5 cents), Nevada (+5 cents) and Rhode Island (+5 cents).

The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets: Oklahoma ($2.36), Louisiana ($2.40), Arkansas ($2.41), Arizona ($2.42), Missouri ($2.42), Kansas ($2.45), Mississippi ($2.47), Ohio ($2.48), Minnesota ($2.50) and New Mexico ($2.51).

South and Southeast
AAA reports that gas prices in the South and Southeast continued to increase, although not as dramatic as last week: Florida (+7 cents), Georgia (+7 cents), Alabama (+5 cents), Tennessee (+4 cents) and South Carolina (+4 cents).

Mid-Atlantic and Northeast
AAA reports that gas prices in states across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have seen moderate increases. New Hampshire ($2.69) leads the region in increases, with the average price for unleaded gasoline rising six cents since last week. The average price for unleaded gasoline in New York ($2.83), Rhode Island ($2.75), Vermont ($2.76) and Maine ($2.74) rose by 5 cents since last Monday, while Delaware’s gas price fell one cent to $2.69.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), regional gasoline supplies dropped to 60.5 million last week. The drop reflects tightening supply due to those refineries still offline after Hurricane Harvey. As pipelines and refineries return to their full operations, AAA says that gas prices should start to decrease later in the month. Temporary relief at the pump should also come from extension of the multi-state waiver issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, which will allow states to sell reformulated gasoline without additives that reduce pollution during the summer.

Great Lakes and Central States
The Great Lakes and Central States region is seeing both increases and decreases at the pump. Prices in Indiana (+7 cents) and Michigan (+6 cents) are up, while four states down: Ohio (-6 cents), Kentucky (-4 cents), Kansas (-3 cents) and Missouri (-3 cents), according to AAA.

West Coast
Compared to the rest of the country, West Coast states are seeing small price increases on the week: Arizona (+6 cents), Nevada (+5 cents), Alaska (+5 cents), Washington (+4 cents), California (+4 cents), Oregon (+2 cents) and Hawaii (+1 cents).

Rockies
All states saw gas prices increase on the week: Montana (+6 cents) and Utah (+4 cents), Wyoming (+2 cents), Colorado (+1 cent) and Idaho (+1 cents). On average, gas is selling for $2.63 in the Rockies, according to AAA.