08/31/05 — You might need to win lottery to fill gas tank

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You might need to win lottery to fill gas tank

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on August 31, 2005 1:48 PM

Motorists dug deeper for gas money this morning, eyes widening as they looked up at the price.

Debra McLaurin of the N.C. 111 community near Goldsboro pulled up to the Save More on Ash Street.

"That's ridiculous. What choice do we have but to deal with it," she said, her eyes glued to the price tag saying $2.99 per gallon. "Highway robbery is what it is."

But she said she had a feeling prices would go up immediately after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina crippled the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico. Nothing is moving out of the region, she said.

Ms. McLaurin drives a lot. She said she is constantly on the go, taking her children to school at Greenwood and Eastern Wayne High School and working in the city.

She said she knew she should have gassed up Tuesday, when the cars were lining up at pumps throughout town.

Not as many cars pulled up to the tanks this morning as they did Tuesday while the distributors were holding the prices at $2.50 a gallon until the tanks ran dry and more supplies arrived.

The cars were still flowing in and out of the parking lot down Ash Street at the Trade Mart. The price was $2.85, but the cost was expected to go up to meet the price at Save More later in the day.

Shirley Rivera behind the counter said she hasn't heard yet, but the Trade Mart usually sticks with Save More on prices. Trade Mart and Save More have different owners, and Wilco bought Trade Mart four months ago.

Ms. River was a lot less frazzled than Tuesday, when the phone was ringing constantly with people asking about the price of gas.

It's still a pretty busy store, she said as Mike Pennington came up to pay for his gas.

"It's too high," he said. "But there's nothing we can do about it, is there?"

Damon Coley was behind him in line, just getting off working the third shift. Coley lives north of Goldsboro on U.S. 13 North and works at Uchyama America on Arrington Bridge Road. He drives a lot.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "I need a raise. I'll have to get a part-time job just to get gas to go to my full-time job."

He never fills his tank. He pumps $5 or $10 and keeps going. He said if gas were cheaper he would fill up.

"I'm 24 now, and when I was 16, I could put $5 in my mamma's tank and it was over half full," he said. "Now, if you put $5 in, it'll laugh at you. It laughs at me a lot now."

According to an industry e-mail received this morning at Wayne Oil Co., at least eight Gulf of Mexico refineries in the path of Hurricane Katrina shut down or reduced operations by Monday. The e-mail said the storm swept through oil and gas fields where 20 percent of the nation's energy is produced. At least two drilling rigs were knocked adrift, and one in Mobile Bay in Alabama broke free of its mooring and slammed into a bridge.

The gas prices changed all over Goldsboro Tuesday.

The e-mail this morning said Saudi Arabia, which is OPEC's biggest crude oil producer, has promised to send an extra 1.5 million barrels a day if needed. The U.S. might dip into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

"Katrina affected some of the Gulf's largest refineries, including Exxon Mobile Corporation's Baton Rouge, La., facility," the transmission said. Chevron's unit in Pascagoula, Miss., also shut down.

Wayne Oil Co. delivers Chevron gas.

John Strickland at Wayne Oil said he could not comment until he found out more information. He said the distributors are looking for answers, too, and the right information one minute can become wrong the next.