Gas shortage fueled by social media-driven hysteria, Texas RR commissioner says

Analyst says issue is logistics, delivery to retailers

HOUSTON - Signs of Hurricane Harvey's ripple effect showed up at some gas stations Thursday. They read: "no gas."

"I've got to go somewhere else, I guess," said Crystal Montez, whose gas gauge was on E.

As word spread throughout the day of some dry pumps, concerns grew and so did lines.

Harvey's power caused havoc in the Gulf of Mexico region, shutting down refineries, offshore drilling and pipelines. That prompted heavy demand both before and after the storm.

So is there a gas shortage?

"There is no sign of a physical shortage yet," said Dan McTeague, senior analyst at GasBuddy.com. "I think it's more of a logistical problem."

It is a sentiment that Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton echoed.

He said he understands that it is scary for people.

Sitton said even if those refineries were able to produce the 2 million barrels of gas per day they usually do, the current issues would exist.

Sitton said that some gas stations are running out of fuel due to a "social media-driven hysteria."

Sitton said what’s happening is, after people see posts on social media, they are rushing to get gas at stations and draining their supply.

WATCH: Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton interview about rumors of gas shortage after Harvey

Most gas stations have scheduled deliveries, based on average use-per-day. So if a gas station runs out it may be without gas until its next scheduled delivery, but it will get gasoline.

Right now, 15 of the approximately 30 refineries in Texas are either out of commission or at diminished capacity because of Harvey. Most of those should be fully operational in the next two to five weeks.

Sitton is calling the gas issue a logistical issue, not a supply one. It’s simply been difficult to get tankers out to gas stations across the state because of the weather and road conditions.

RELATED: Texas, US gas prices spike after disastrous Hurricane Harvey

McTeague said the issue is storm-caused difficulties in delivering gas to retailers and consumers.

"The retailers may be out of or low as a result of very heavy demand," he said.

All this comes as we head into the Labor Day weekend, when demand is heavy.

Gas prices have already risen 17 cents in San Antonio since last week. Another similar jump is expected in the coming week.

AAA said it expects gas prices to normalize by mid- to late September.

As for his long-term expectations, McTeague said it is too early to tell.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a warning to gas stations against attempts to take advantage of Texas consumers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office received more than 500 complaints Thursday, many of which involve allegations of high fuel prices in Dallas.

Some stations are charging $6-$8 per gallon.

“Texas law protects consumers from fraud in Dallas and other parts of Texas outside of the governor’s declared disaster areas,” said Marc Rylander, communications director for the attorney general’s office. “If Dallas consumers are victims of fraud by gas stations, we urge them to contact our agency’s consumer protection hotline so that we can investigate and take appropriate action.”

Victims of fraud can report it immediately by calling the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-621-0508, emailing consumeremergency@oag.texas.gov, or filing a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.

Consumers are encouraged to submit photos and photo copies of gas receipts with their complaints, if possible.

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