Some gas stations in New Jersey reported that they’d run out of fuel. Those shortages could become more widespread.
Retail gas prices were mostly unchanged in many cities that are expected to be hit this weekend. Rules against price gouging at gas stations took effect throughout Middle Atlantic states. Authorities will be looking for stations that try to take advantage of panicked drivers.
Pump prices were up slightly overnight, as much as 3 cents per gallon, to $3.44 in Philadelphia and $3.49 in New Jersey’s Atlantic-Cape May metro area. They seemed to hold in other areas, rising a penny or so on average in Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas.
The Colonial Pipeline, which transports gasoline and other fuels from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast, stopped fuel deliveries to Selma, N.C., and to Virginia’s Tidewater area as the storm knocked out power. Pipeline spokesman Steve Baker said the pipeline may cut off deliveries further in Virginia and Maryland as the storm moves north.
Refineries, which make fuel from oil, have started to slow operations as Irene approaches.
OPIS says East Coast refineries will cut operating rates 10 to 25 percent in the next few days. Refineries in the Gulf Coast and the West should be able to keep supplies flowing to the rest of the country.
Refineries along the Louisiana Coast produce more than three times the gasoline and fuel of their East Coast counterparts, according to the Energy Information Administration. East Coast demand is going to fall as businesses close and people hunker down at home.