Archive for Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Attack causes brief gas shortage fear

September 12, 2001

Daniel McDonald never expected to find long lines when he went to fill his car with gasoline Tuesday, Sept. 11.

"I'm coming to get gas because I'm about out of gas," McDonald said. "It's busier than ever."

McDonald was among hundreds of people who lined up at gas stations across Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and Basehor to fill their tanks. Some of those in line said they feared a gas shortage in upcoming days, while many said it was the expectation of rising prices they feared most.

Within hours of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., drivers across the country began seeing prices soar.

Although prices remained steady in Basehor, the pumps at Casey's General Store on 155th Street went dry after dozens of people filled their tanks.

At the two Wood's Oil locations in Bonner Springs, prices jumped to $2.49 per gallon by late that afternoon. Prices at Stephan's Amoco also climbed 34 cents higher than earlier in the day, reaching $1.99 per gallon by the evening.

By Tuesday night, however, prices went back to normal, but it was too late for some people in the metro area who paid almost $70 for a tank of gas. up today."

Jones said he believes the temporary shutdown of all U.S. refineries and pipelines, as well as the suspending of all commodity trading in the country contributed to the increase. Still, Jones said retail gas companies might have been taking "undue advantage" of customers. Prior to the attacks, Jones said gas prices nationwide had been stable at $1.53 per gallon on average.

One of those customers, Dan Knudson, said he got to the gas station as fast as he could when he heard about the possible price hikes.

"I just got news about five minutes ago they're going to be raising gas prices sky high," Knudson said.

Cherie Sage, a public affairs coordinator for AAA, said there is no justification for prices jumping so dramatically within hours of the terrorist attacks. Although crude oil prices rose about $3 per barrel on overseas markets, Sage said that would only translate into about 10 cents per gallon.

"I think it's just that panic, that fear factor," Sage said. "There's no justification for a gas hike. It's up to (the gas companies) to keep prices stable."

Sage said she's disappointed with the way things played out at the pumps in the wake of the attacks.

"Not only do we battle the effects of terrorist attacks, now we have to be battling the effects of ourselves," Sage said.

Craig Stephan, owner of Stephan's Amoco on Front Street in Bonner Springs, thinks the rush on gasoline was an instant reaction to what people witnessed earlier in the day on television.

"You're seeing a nation in panic right now," Stephan said.

Stephan said there should be plenty of reserves in the country's fuel system to keep prices level for at least 24 hours even if all pipelines and refineries were shutdown.

As volunteer firefighters helped direct traffic near his Amoco station, Stephan said people were unknowingly creating their own gas shortage.

"If it stays like this for much longer, there's a good possibility I may not have enough gas," Stephan said.

Additional Bonner Springs police officers were also called into work to help control traffic near gas stations throughout the city. Besides simply directing traffic, police said they had received reports of road rage from people scrambling for better positions at the pumps.

Some gas stations in the Kansas City metro area were charging $5 per gallon for premium gasoline.

Exxon, Mobile and BP, the three largest distributors in the United States, released statements Tuesday evening saying there was not going to be a shortage of gasoline and prices should remain what they had been prior to the attack.

The United Petroleum Institute said there was no shortage of gasoline and it was urging gasoline retailers not take advantage of the situation by raising gas prices.

Law enforcement officials in the metro area said Wednesday they would look into prosecuting those stations that took advantage of customers' fears with price gouging.

The Conoco Corporation also released a statement saying it would terminate the licenses of those retailers that raised prices.

Alan Jones, a public affairs coordinator for AAA, said the speed of the price hike in response to the attacks surprised him.

"Not in my lifetime has anything like this ever happened," Jones said. "They've already gone

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