Gas shortage to end soon, officials say

A long line of people hoping to buy A long line of people hoping to buy fuel forms at a gas station in Newark, N.J. (Nov. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Motorists can expect gradual relief in coming days from long lines and closed gasoline stations, government officials and industry executives said.

But a return to normalcy also depends in part on renewing the shaken confidence of consumers that gas will be readily available when they need it.

A Northville Industries executive said his terminal Saturday was expected to have dispensed 30 percent more gasoline than on a normal Saturday -- or 1.4 million gallons -- but that motorist demand was making it difficult to keep up.

"The demand is so crazy," he said. "People want to fill every can and every car."

As more and more stations are supplied, he said, faith in the distribution system should be restored. "I would hope that by midweek, certainly by the end of the week, the perception would have turned and people will be comfortable."

With New York Harbor reopened, the first of what is expected to be an endless stream of barges carrying gasoline arrived at Holtsville Friday night with a million gallons from the harbor, state officials and the Northville Industries executive said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said two other terminals supplying local gas stations, in Inwood run by Global Partners and Carbo Industries, had reopened Friday night. The Inwood complex is partly supplied by the Buckeye pipeline from Linden, N.J., which was reported reopened earlier Friday.

"Fuel is on its way," Cuomo said at a Manhattan news conference Saturday. "You don't have to panic." He suggested motorists wait if they can to purchase gasoline.

"You can wait on a line today, or travel less, postpone some plans and wait a couple of days and the situation is going to be greatly alleviated," he told a reporter later.

But he said he had no plans to order odd and even day rationing, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has done. "We don't want to go to a ration situation at this time because we think the supply situation will improve," Cuomo said.

Andy Lipow, president of Houston energy consulting company Lipow Oil Associates Llc, foresees relief for motorists within days. "My expectation is there is going to be a big improvement Monday and Tuesday from the terminals' distribution point of view. The next step is the restoration of power to gas stations."

Long Islanders' 2.6 million vehicles burn about 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline per year, according to the state.

One gas retailer who depends on Holtsville expressed frustration at not being able to get product. Rich Catania, who owns Advance Fuels in Huntington Station, said he ran out of gas Wednesday and his supplier told him Saturday that he was limited in what he could purchase at Holtsville.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"All I know is we do not have any gas and now they're saying maybe Monday or Tuesday," Catania said.

Meanwhile, prices increased again Saturday. The AAA said regular gasoline averaged $3.981 a gallon on Long Island, up 1.6 cents from the day before and 9 cents higher than a week earlier. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman warned businesses on Oct. 28 that state law prohibits businesses, including gasoline stations, from charging "excessive prices" during supply disruptions.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said generators provided by the federal government would be sent to gas stations on Long Island that have gasoline but no electricity to pump it into cars.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said a few generators had arrived Saturday at Republic Airport, and Israel's office was making arrangements for deliveries to stations.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Gas crisis timeline

Monday: Port of New York closed as Sandy approaches, preventing fuel tankers from entering and unloading. Barges in Port Jefferson Harbor prevented for safety reasons from unloading fuel for Northville Industries key Holtsville distribution terminal. Most gasoline stations, Northeast refineries and distribution terminals lose power, pipelines from Gulf Coast shut down.

Tuesday: Experts predict short-term shortages of fuel, with higher prices. Holtsville terminal on generator power but running out of fuel.

Wednesday: Lines begin forming at open gas stations as Long Islanders begin returning to work and seeking supplies.

Thursday: Lines get longer and tempers flare but Port of New York reopens.

Friday: Police in both counties quell scores of disputes on long gas lines. President Obama directs Pentagon to truck 22 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel to the New York metro area. Major pipelines from Gulf reopened, including one to Inwood. Federal government temporarily waives a shipping regulation, allowing more tankers to supply Northeast ports.

Saturday: State officials report two Inwood terminals reopened. Northville says barges have begun arriving at Port Jefferson with millions of gallons of gasoline. Emergency generators are promised for powerless gas stations. Long lines and waits of hours remains the norm.

The best of Newsday everyday in your inbox. Get the Newsday Now newsletter!

You also may be interested in: