Analyst: Harvey’s impact at the pump worse than Hurricane Katrina

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — The head of the Texas agency that regulates the oil and gas industry is urging people to wait three or four days to fill their cars and trucks with gasoline if they can.

Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton said Thursday that people are panicking and that’s causing a run on gas and empty fuel pumps.

“It looks like it’s gotten worse now, outdoing Hurricane Katrina in terms of an impact at the pump. And more may be coming,” said petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan.

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Approximately 25 percent of refinery production is shut down in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, according to DeHaan. That’s leading to rising prices at the pump.

DeHaan said the price of wholesale gas jumped as much as $0.25 a gallon in some states Thursday.

Michigan gas prices rose, but not that much. However, DeHaan says prices could rise again either Friday or Saturday.

“There’s not enough (gasoline) to go around. The nation right now is consuming 2 million barrels of gasoline every day more than what’s being produced so what’s happening is the Midwest, some of our gasoline is starting to go to the Gulf Coast. Pipelines have actually been reversed to flow down that way and that’s why prices are impacting not only us but everyone in this country, because gasoline is starting to make some really abnormal moves and go elsewhere,” DeHaan said.

Sitton says he doesn’t think it will be an issue a week from now as long as people stay calm and fill up their tanks as they normally would.

DeHaan also encourages drivers to conserve fuel. He says as soon as the Houston shipping channel reopens, production should return to normal.

Gov. Rick Snyder Thursday issued an executive order declaring a state of energy emergency based on the impact of Hurricane Harvey. The declaration waives certain requirements to address fuel supply emergencies.

The disaster declaration will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 15 or it’s rescinded.