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Cornelius News

Why we’ve got gas


Sept. 17. By Dave Yochum. Tom Kloza—the nationally recognized fuel whisperer—says you don’t build a church for Easter Sunday. That’s the analogy the  global head of energy analysis at OPIS (Oil Price Information Service) used to describe the normally adequate gasoline supply system that provides fuel from distribution centers in Greensboro and Charlotte to gas stations in Cornelius.

The day after a hurricane, the pews at Cornelius gas stations are going to be deserted. Panic buying is marked by a rapid increase in purchase volume, reducing supply and creating higher demand.

“We are very slow today, and probably the next few days,” said Gordon Cashion, of Cornelius-based Cashion’s Quik Stop.

It’s like all of us have gas. Our survey of five stations in Cornelius Monday morning—post Florence—showed all had gasoline, and not much traffic. Late last week it was a different story. There were lines as motorists topped off their tanks. The BP at Westmoreland and Hwy. 21 ran out of gas last week pre-Florence, like other stations around town, including Cashion’s and the Exxon and Kangaroo Express on West Catawba.

Kloza, in an exclusive interview with Cornelius Today, said the region’s gasoline supply was suddenly rolling around on Hondas, Chevys and Fords, running on full and not staged in big fuel terminals for overnight delivery in tanker trucks.

Just like you don’t build a church for Easter Sunday, you don’t build a distribution system for everyone topping off their tank, Kloza said.

The greatest risk for consumers is losing power for three days—or a week or more—and you can’t pump gas without electricity. Florida and New Jersey require on-site generators; North Carolina doesn’t.

There are no refineries nearby that could shut down because of flooding or massive storm damage.

“People just feel this need to fill up if they don’t have topped-off tanks,” Kloza says. “A typical gas station might sell 3,000 gallons a day, so it doesn’t take many customers for them to run out.”

Do anti-gouging laws help? Maybe, maybe not.

When Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Florence bore down on the coast, North Carolina’s anti-gouging laws went into effect. NC Attorney General Josh Stein notified businesses and consumers today to be on the lookout for price gouging.

“My office is here to protect North Carolinians from scams and frauds,” Stein said. “That is true all the time – but especially during severe weather. It is against the law to charge an excessive price during a state of emergency. If you see a business taking advantage of this storm, either before or after it hits, please let my office know so we can hold them accountable.”

North Carolina has a strong statute against price gouging which went into effect for the entire state Sept. 7. It will be lifted when the state of emergency is lifted.

Thing is, anti-gouging laws can actually shut down the mechanism that efficiently manages supply. Low prices remove incentives to think twice about topping off the gas tank.

Some suppliers raised per-gallon prices 30 cents, Cashion said. “Those same suppliers have now lowered their prices back down in line with other suppliers,” he said.

“It’s not a shortage of gasoline, it’s a dislocation and panic behavior,” Kloza says.