Panic Fueling Is Perpetuating Harvey’s Detrimental Impact
Chrisk Hosek, Principal
Are you one of the thousands who is rushing to fill up your gas tank? If so, you are part of the problem. Take a deep breath. The supply problem of gasoline isn’t a Hurricane Harvey problem; it is a panic problem. Here’s why.
Hurricane Harvey’s seemingly endless devastation has been on the forefront of our minds for a week now. It is impacting not only the people in its immediate path but also rippling across the country by way of energy prices.
The storm’s effect on energy along the Texas gulf coast is astonishing. The Texas gulf coast contains 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity, half of which is now shut in. Fourteen crude oil refineries are closed or partially shut down. Even without damage, it could be weeks before they come back online. More than 1/5 of normal oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and 1/4 of the natural gas production has been shut in.
With Houston serving as the energy capital of the world, it stands to reason Texas will have gasoline problems and, as if the raw numbers aren’t daunting enough, just add some social media. Facebook users are posting pictures of long lines at Dallas gas stations, tweets about Austin stations completely closing are filling feeds, and internal office emails about gas shortages are showing up in inboxes across our state. Everyone panics and runs to the closest gas station to fill up. The lines get longer, more stations close, and hysteria grows.
Does this really make sense? No, it doesn’t.
The unreasonable rush for gasoline has caused a delivery problem. Supply markets never anticipated this type of irrational panic. Ironically, it is easier to fill up in Corpus Christi than it is in some parts of north Texas.
All three Texas Railroad Commissioners agree. They should know a thing or two about gas, as the agency is primarily responsible for energy production in the state. The Chair of the Railroad Commission, Christi Craddick, has taken to all forms of media imploring the citizens of Texas to avoid the hysteria.
Craddick says: “Please stay calm and DO NOT perpetuate rumors. There is currently NO shortage of gasoline in Texas due to Hurricane Harvey. These are rumors.”
We have seen little evidence of significant damage at refineries. It is true that refineries take time to come back online, so we will see prices rise without question. Rushing to fill your gas tank may save you a buck or two, but does topping off really help the overall situation, or are those extra few gallons just prolonging the problem?