Why hours-long lines for gasoline aren't easing in Sandy-hit areas
The port of New York is again open, allowing tankers to bring fuel to New York. But with damage and power outages across broad swaths of New York and New Jersey, it's not that simple.
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In addition, Lenard says it’s human nature to react to a line at a gas station. “People see the line and wonder if they should get in it,” he says.Skip to next paragraph
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Some of the worst places for gasoline lines are in New Jersey and Long Island, says Avery Ash, manager of regulatory affairs AAA in Washington. He says 45 percent to 50 percent of gas stations are operational in the Garden State while 35 percent to 40 percent are operational on Long Island. This is a slight improvement from Thursday.
“It means they operated at some point today, but it does not mean they had gasoline all day,” he says. “This continues to be an issue of electricity,” says Mr. Ash.
The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), which supplies most of the electricity for Long Island, says it does not expect to get most residents back on its grid until the weekend of Nov. 10 at the earliest.
“Many gasoline stations have plenty of gas in their tanks but they can’t turn the pumps on,” says Ash.
Getting gasoline from local refineries, which are the closest, is not going to be that easy either.
According to the daily situation report from the Department of Energy, as of Friday two New Jersey refineries accounting for 308,000 barrels of gasoline – about 25 percent of supply to the New York metro area – remained closed.
In addition, some storage facilities have been damaged. Motiva, a joint venture between Shell and Saudi Refining, says two of four diesel-storage facilities in Sewaren, N.J., are leaking.
On the positive side, two gasoline pipelines that bring gasoline from Gulf Coast refineries are just starting to reopen. They were shut down in advance of the storm.
However, Ash points out that the pipelines cannot operate at full capacity because some of the pipeline terminals are still closed. In an effort to help, the US government temporarily suspended the Jones Act, which requires that vessels moving between US ports must be US-flagged. The suspension means that foreign-flagged vessels can help move gasoline from refineries in Houston to New York harbor.
The waiver of the Jones Act resulted in the wholesale prices of gasoline falling 5.5 cents a gallon on Friday. “That’s the lowest price since late June,” says Ash.
In fact, despite the long lines and short tempers, Ash says he has not heard of gasoline stations gouging consumers.
“Until today, gasoline prices were continuing to fall in New York and New Jersey,” he says. On Friday, gasoline prices in both states were up about 1 cent per gallon compared with Thursday. But there were about 2 cents a gallon lower than last week.
“We continue to think prices will come down through the end of the year,” he says.