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Refineries recover from Harvey while Irma stirs more price uncertainty

Staff Reports • Updated Sep 6, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Gas prices spiked last week in response to Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the fuel-refining region in the Gulf Coast. 

It left motorists with the most expensive Labor Day gas prices in three years. Just as operations in the Gulf Coast begin to recover, motorists are faced with the potential of another major storm. 

The national average jumped 28 cents in the last 10 days. Monday’s average price of $2.64 per gallon was the highest since Aug. 20, 2015.

Tennessee’s average price rose 40 cents in the past eight days. Monday’s average price of $2.552 per gallon was the highest since July 5, 2015.

Refineries in Corpus Christi, Houston, Port Charles and Louisiana are recovering from Hurricane Harvey, and beginning to move product again. In addition, Colonial Pipeline expected to fully restore operations to Line 1 of its gasoline supply line Tuesday. While the impact of Hurricane Harvey left some markets in Texas without gasoline, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee remained well supplied.  

“Gas prices are reaching a point where they should begin to plateau,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA. “Wholesale prices are finally showing weakness, which will relieve upward pressure on the retail side.  Unfortunately, for motorists in the southeastern U.S., they may not see prices move lower until Hurricane Irma is long gone. 

“Retailers will not be in a big hurry to lower prices for a number of reasons. For starters, retailers have the right to choose what they charge for gasoline. However, a state of emergency, like the one issued in Florida, prevents retailers from grossly raising prices beyond anything they’ve charged in the past 30 days. If they do, retailers have to prove justifiable cause, based on market trends.”

Motorists can report information to the attorney general’s price gouging hotline at 866-966-7226. Violations may also be reported at myfloridalegal.com.

The most expensive gas price averages in Tennessee were in Nashville at $2.62, Knoxville at $2.56 and Clarksville-Hopkinsville at $2.53. The least expensive gas price averages in Tennessee were in Memphis at $2.47, Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol at $2.50 and Chattanooga at $2.50.

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