Some Stations Running Out Of Regular-Grade
By TOM YANCEY
Gasoline stations in and around Greeneville began running out of regular-grade fuel this morning, as rumors spread that there would be sharp gasoline price hikes related to possible oil refinery disruptions in Texas related to Hurricane Ike.
Food City gasoline sales pumps on the Asheville Highway were out of regular and mid-grade fuel by mid-morning.
However, the local gasoline retailers The Greeneville Sun was able to contact this morning said they have fuel to sell,
They said they believe that, although individual stations will run out for brief periods, enough gasoline is "in the pipeline" and in the system to prevent a widespread shortage unless Texas refineries take a direct hit from the strong hurricane.
Chris Marsh, president and CEO of Marsh Petroleum, said his company had two stations in Knoxville and one in Oak Ridge that ran out of gasoline last night, but added that that had not happened here, so far.
Marsh operates 22 Exxon and Conoco Phillips stations, including six in Greeneville.
"If (the hurricane) hits refineries, next week could really be awful," in terms of gasoline availability, Marsh said. For the time being, Marsh urged motorists to conserve.
Ben English, owner of Pioneer Market near Tusculum, said at 8:30 this morning that he had sold as much gasoline already this morning "as I can remember."
English said everyone had heard the rumors about gasoline prices rising by somewhere between 35 cents and a dollar per gallon, and were reacting.
"We're just slammed" with business, English said, but he added that his supplier still had gasoline, a situation which English said he believes will allow him to be resupplied.
English said his station, like many others, reacts to price changes at the Wal-Mart Supercenter, which is about a mile away from Pioneer Market. When Wal-Mart raised its prices 15 cents this morning, "I matched them" at Pioneer Market, English said.
Wal-Mart does not own the gasoline station at its Supercenter. A store manager said the gasoline facility is owned by Murphy Oil. Attempts to reach Murphy Oil this morning were unsuccessful.
Mark Freshour, store operations manager for Greeneville Oil & Petroleum, Inc., said the BP wholesaler raised the price that Greeneville Oil stations have to pay for gasoline by 35 cents at 5 p.m. Thursday, so local BPs operated by Greeneville Oil were raised accordingly.
This morning, BP stations operated by Greeneville Oil were selling regular gasoline for $3.99.
"Right now we're still at 100 percent allocation, which means there is still gasoline available for us to load in Knoxville," at the distribution terminal, Freshour said early this morning.
Later, however, Freshour called back and said "there is a great possibility" that allocations would be reduced at 5 p.m. today.
Freshour likened the current situation to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when gasoline was in short supply at some stations for a few days because refineries along the Gulf Coast were out of operation temporarily.
Hurricane Ike is expected to make landfall today in Texas, and Freshour noted that several major refineries at Texas City, Texas, may be in the hurricane's path.
He called this morning's runs "hysteria" fueled by a combination of the news media's coverage of the situation and actual increases by oil companies.
Freshour noted that the other major concentration of oil refineries in the eastern U.S. is at Lake Charles, La., which is not in Ike's path.
He said the Lake Charles refineries alone have enough capacity to supply the Southeast, though some temporary shortages at some stations would be likely.
Attempts were unsuccessful this morning to reach spokesmen for Rogers Petroleum, which operates Zoomerz markets and related gasoline stations, and Allen Petroleum, which operates Okee Dokee Markets and related Exxon gasoline stations.