Harvey-induced flooding in southeast Texas has led to shutdowns at some refineries and pipelines in the region, causing fuel shortages—exacerbated by a frantic perception of fuel shortages—at gas stations throughout North Texas.
While the scene in Dallas hasn’t quite devolved into a Mad Max-ian scramble for dwindling gas reserves in a post-apocalyptic desert, your social media feed and office-wide emails have probably reported difficulties in filling up. Long lines. Frustration. Some gas station owners are predicting they’ll run dry by the end of the Labor Day weekend — QuikTrip told the Star-Telegram it plans to stop selling gas at half its stores over the next couple days, and all three Fuel Cities are anticipating empty pumps come Monday.
Informal tip lines about where to find gas have sprung up online, and GasBuddy.com is a resource tracking (slightly rising) prices and availability at individual stations throughout North Texas. QuikTrip is updating a list of stores that currently have gas. RaceTrac is doing the same. And we hear, through the admittedly unreliable grapevine, that stores in the Mid-Cities and along Riverfront in Dallas are doing just fine for now. The 7-Eleven at Maple and Oak Lawn began attracting drivers early in the morning. A line at an Exxon in North Dallas snaked out into the street, blocking cars wanting to turn right from Preston onto Frankford.
In an interview with Channel 8, Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton told everybody to chill. “Concerns and even panic over gasoline shortages is leading to a sense that there’s a gasoline shortage,” creating the long lines and depleted gas stations, he said. A problem of supply and demand. It’s turtles all the way down.
“Don’t panic” is always sound advice, but especially now. There’s no need to start loading up the emergency bunker with gas canisters. The EPA and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Department of Energy have waived certain fuel requirements to make more gasoline available and to shore up shortages. The Texas Food and Fuel Association says that fuel terminals are beginning to reopen, although in some cases on a limited basis. There’s been no consensus estimate on how long this might last, as responders begin to pick up the pieces in the Houston area and surrounding counties, but a needless pile-up to rush to the gas station will only make things worse.
While a gas shortage may be a particular source of consternation for families plotting a Labor Day weekend getaway, it seems like a good idea to stay put for now, as much as possible. Walk. Ride a bike. Use DART. Help the people recovering from Harvey. Let emergency responders and southeast Texas residents trying to return home get to the pump first.
P.S. The Texas Food and Fuel Association cautions that gas prices should be expected to increase because of supply issues (more on how disasters affect fuel prices here), but customers shouldn’t immediately assume price gouging. Having said that, price gouging in the wake of a disaster is punishable by law in the state of Texas, and customers can file a complaint of suspected price gouging here.