Gas prices drop as Ian approaches, AAA says

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File) (Rogelio V. Solis, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Gas prices in Florida have declined as Hurricane Ian tracks toward the state, AAA said Monday.

According to the Auto Club Group, Florida gas prices declined 4 cents per gallon last week.

As of Monday, according to AAA, the average price for a gallon of gas in Florida was $3.38, which is the lowest daily average since January. In comparison, it was $3.73 nationwide and $3.35.

“There’s actually downward pressure on pump prices, despite the forecast that a hurricane would approach Florida this week,” said AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins. “Gasoline and oil futures prices plunged 7% last week, to eight-month lows on concerns that aggressive interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve could trigger an economic recession.”

Since Ian is not projected to impact the refineries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, Jenkins said, it’s unlikely that the storm itself or the resulting demand would cause pump prices to spike.

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Demand spikes lead to temporary fuel outages

In the coming days, according to AAA, it’s possible that gas stations will temporarily run out of fuel due to an influx in demand from evacuees or people topping off their tanks and filling spare gas cans. However, it’s also important for drivers to remember that these outages are temporary.

Gas stations are not connected to an underground pipeline. Just like your vehicle, each gas station can only hold so much fuel at a given time. That fuel is stored in tanks underground. Once those tanks are empty, retailers bag the pumps and wait for the next delivery truck. Sometimes that can be the same day, sometimes longer. It can vary.

Florida’s gasoline is primarily provided by refineries in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. That gasoline sails into Florida’s ports and then is picked up by tanker trucks and delivered to area gas stations. Fuel deliveries should continue until the weather conditions make it unsafe to do so.

Once the storm passes and the ports reopen, shipments of gasoline will begin flowing into the state again. Gasoline can also be driven over from surrounding counties or states that are not impacted by the storm.

“The bottom line is, don’t panic about gasoline supplies, just take what you need,” Jenkins continued. “The state makes it a priority to keep gasoline shipments going as long as it’s safe to do so. Once the storm passes, shipments will resume as soon as possible.”

Gas price gouging

If gas prices were to increase as this storm approaches, even after a state of emergency was declared, AAA is often asked whether that is considered price gouging?

Typically, the answer is “not necessarily,” according to AAA.

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During a storm-related state of emergency, retailers like gas stations are prohibited from significantly raising prices beyond what they’ve charged in the past 30 days. The exception is that if that the cost of obtaining that commodity increased for the business owner. For example, if oil prices unexpectedly surged this week and wholesale gasoline prices spiked, that could raise the price for retailers to obtain their next shipment of gasoline, enabling them to pass along the added expense to consumers.

Even still, if drivers suspect foul play, they’re encouraged to report it. For more information on price gouging and how to report it, click here to visit the Florida Attorney General’s website.