Don't fret fuel supply, officials insist

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Long lines and dry pumps notwithstanding, there's gas to go around.

Just be patient, officials say.

There’s no fuel shortage, Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton insists, it’s runaway concerns that are indeed leading to queues at gas stations, higher prices and dry pumps.

Sitton was working to put rumors to rest Thursday afternoon, and Kilgore Police Chief Todd Hunter was doing the same Friday morning, typing up a public service announcement for Facebook to try to stopper a flow of bad information, especially on social media.

As Texans to the south try to get their feet on solid ground after Hurricane Harvey, many drivers throughout the rest of the state – including Kilgore – rushed to the pumps Wednesday evening and into Thursday. News of shuttered refineries in storm-struck areas evolved into hours-long waits in some parts of Texas, price spikes and shortages in others.

“The crisis is not the fuel supply,” Sitton said in telephone interview with WFAA-TV Thursday, “it’s in people who are sitting there at a gas station.

“It’s just going to take a little time for people to know there isn’t an issue. When they do, this will pass quickly.”

It’s just a disruption, Hunter echoed Friday morning.

“We really need to put it in perspective,” he said. “We didn’t get hit by a hurricane. Our businesses and our homes are not lost. We will be inconvenienced for a few days. There’s no need for panic or concern.

“We will be the consummate Texans, and we will adapt to the needs around us.”

Locals have been calling KPD concerned they can’t find Regular Unleaded gasoline, Hunter said. Some have asked if Texas is running out of fuel.

“That’s not the case. With over 400 roads closed yesterday, there is certainly a distribution interruption, and people will have to work around those things. Vendors are working on some solutions.”

Putting together his online update, Hunter visited with Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association. The former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture addressed concerns of a shortage in a statement on the association’s TXOGA.org website Thursday.

“As Hurricane Harvey dissipates, refineries and terminals are assessing the damage that may have occurred due to the storm,” Staples reported. “While typical supply patterns may be disrupted, operators continue to work with local, state and federal officials to obtain necessary regulatory approvals and identify alternative routes to mitigate those disruptions.

“The fuel distribution system in Texas and across the nation is very large and individual companies are directing all resources to safely re-engage the necessary infrastructure to work through the challenging circumstances. The industry is working to stabilize the supply chain and working with our partners in the retail gasoline business to meet the demands they are experiencing.”

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is encouraging consumers to maintain regular gas-buying habits, Staples added, to alleviate the surge in demand.

“We’ll just adapt to this,” Hunter said. “There’s no reason to get on the social media bandwagon and cause angst among our fellow Texans.”

Sitton says he understands drivers’ concerns: seeing huge lines at the gas station and bags on the pumps. It’s a situation that feeds on itself, especially on social media.

“That dynamic, that reaction is what’s causing this,” he said, and in some parts of the state, “the gas station can’t get gasoline today to respond to this very short-term demand. They might not get it tomorrow. It may take a few days.”

Yes, Sitton confirmed, 15 refineries have shut down or are at reduced-capacity. That cuts the United States’ refining capacity by 3 million barrels a day.

That said, “There are 230 million barrels of gasoline in storage in the United States, and it’s just a logistics issue of getting that gasoline from those inventories to those gas stations, and that may take a couple, three days,” he said. That’s how long it normally takes, but there’s less demand in the meantime. ““The only problem right now is there’s such a run on the gas stations, and people are – I hate to use the word – panicking. They’re panicking and making a run on the gas stations. That’s what’s causing this perception, and it’s causing this concern.”

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