Running on empty?: Texas gas prices rise in wake of Hurricane Harvey


A gas pump at the Gulf Oil station on Manor Rd on Sep. 11.

A gas pump at the Gulf Oil station on Manor Rd on Sep. 11.

You may have noticed over the last week lines of cars waiting to fill up their tanks at gas stations. Or empty fill up stations with plastic covering the gas pumps. Since Hurricane Harvey hit the gulf coast, Texas gas prices have risen 50 cents per gallon.

Houston is home to half the nation’s oil refineries and a quarter of the oil rigs. Motiva, the country’s largest oil refinery located in Port Arthur TX, halted production Aug. 30 – Sept. 5 due to flooding. Exxon Mobil, the second largest refinery in the country, has undergone significant reductions to production due to flooding as well. Not only are refineries outputting less, many of Houston’s major channel ways closed in the days following Harvey and pipeline routes running gasoline from the coast are unable to function.

Although production and transportation has been slowed due to flooding, there have been efforts to address the disruption in the industry. Texas gasoline demands can be met by nearby states oil supplies and Texas Energy Secretary Rick Perry has ordered 500,000 barrels of crude oil to be shipped to functioning refineries in Louisiana and Texas in order to prevent a rise in gas prices. Alternative oil sources is only expected to be necessary for another week or two, until major refineries are up and running.

Despite alternative sources being used to relieve the oil shortage, prices have still risen. In Austin, gas prices were up 40 cents this past week from the average in Aug. Gov. Greg Abbott announced Aug. 31 that ,“There is plenty of gasoline in Texas,” and Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton credits rising prices to panicked consumers, not an oil shortage. Many stations along the Gulf Coast have run out of gas because flooding has prevented deliveries, however stations in North Texas that have run out of gas are not experiencing disrupted deliveries. Instead, regular supply has not been enough to satisfy demand in the wake of Harvey.

Like most of the state, Austin gas prices have begun decreasing after Sept. 5 when they hit a two year record high of $2.57 per gallon. Industry official do not expect prices to stay this high for much longer, as the Gulf Coast recovers from Harvey. However, Florida and neighboring southern states are experiencing similar rises in gas prices due to Gulf Coast gas shortages, and mass motoristi evacuation as Hurricane Irma approaches. Prices in Florida have reached an average of $2.73.