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Gas disruption affects hundreds

In the heart of this car-loving city, gasoline prices jumped more than $1 a gallon yesterday and long-car lines and some gas stations ran out of fuel, the direct result of Hurricane Katrina's interruption of the Gulf Coast's oil links with the rest of the country.

BY SIMON GRAF | ATLANTA, Ga. | September 1, 2005

In the heart of this car-loving city, gasoline prices jumped more than $1 a gallon yesterday and long-car lines and some gas stations ran out of fuel, the direct result of Hurricane Katrina's interruption of the Gulf Coast's oil links with the rest of the country.

Elsewhere across the Southeast, cities suspended trash service because of a lack of diesel fuel and school buses scaled back service.

"Few people I think fully comprehend the seriousness of the problem that the South and Southeast could be facing in the next several weeks - it's an experience that few Americans have ever experienced," said Fred Allvine, an oil expert with the Georgia Institute of Technology.

What happened is that the hurricane damaged eight major Gulf Coast refineries and disrupted transportation in the affected area. Power outages also have affected oil companies' ability to pump supplies through pipelines. The area provides about 30 percent of the country's gasoline.

Gasoline in some parts of Atlanta neared $4 a gallon today. Yesterday afternoon, gasoline was about $2.80 a gallon. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue yesterday enacted the state's price gouging statute to protect consumers from illegal hikes in gas prices after his office received "credible evidence that price gouging has occurred in some parts of the state."

Frank Davis, service manager of the Piedmont-Lindberg Exxon in Atlanta, said a false email saying that gasoline supplies in the area were going to run out yesterday afternoon may have added to the confusion. Davis reported long lines at his service station yesterday but urged people to remain calm.

"I wouldn't go out and stock up on gas because I don't think we're going to have that type of a gas shortage," he said.

Katrina's disruption also is likely to affect more than gas stations. Experts say they don't yet know how the hurricane affected natural gas and heating oil supplies for this coming winter.

Flights also may be scaled back in upcoming months as airports in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. - which rely on jet fuel from the Gulf Coast - could have problems with fuel supplies, Allvine said.

"The situation is seriously grave. those that are not in the immediate area are just now feeling the impact of Katrina and the great havoc it has created in the South and Southeast," he said. "We're going to be feeling the problems for months to come."

Allvine said the United States needs to examine why it is too dependent on offshore oil rigs and oil imports in the Gulf Coast. Oil refineries may have to be created along the East Coast, far away from traditional hurricane paths, he said.


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