Holiday and hurricane could mean double whammy at gas pumps

By Caton Bredar - bio  | email 
Posted by Charles Gazaway - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As forecasters are keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Gustav, expected to gain strength as it heads toward the Gulf Coast, motorists are keeping an eye on rising gas prices. Already inflated with the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend, experts say, depending on the storm, prices could get even higher. WAVE 3's Caton Bredar spoke with motorists as they filled up at the pumps.

When the day started, the national average for a gallon of gasoline was $3.66, with prices in Louisville hovering just below $3.60. By late afternoon, most stations throughout Metro Louisville were between $3.72 and $3.76.  Some experts say, depending on the strength and direction of Tropical Storm Gustav, those prices could turn out to be a bargain.

Motorists like Louisville resident Melody Cravens filled up at a station on Dixie Highway before prices get any higher.

"I'm watching to see what the gas prices are," Cravens says. "I noticed (that prices already went up). I got gas yesterday for $3.48, so it definitely went up today."

Roger Raney, another customer at the pump, agrees but confesses confusion.

"Oh yeah, it's gone up today," Raney says.  "There's just no reason for it. If they sneeze, it seems like gas is going up."

Gas prices have already gone up even before Gustav has grown to hurricane strength. In anticipation of the possible storm, the price of crude oil is up more than $2 a barrel, and gas companies are evacuating some of their employees stationed in the Gulf. Roger Boyd of AAA Kentucky in Louisville says the hike in oil prices is natural.

"What we've really seen," Boyd says, "Especially since Katrina, the speculators driving those prices per barrel up."

"They do have to shut down those oil rigs, they do have to get people to a place of safety," Boyd continues. "The big thing, once the storm has developed or struck, can gasoline still be delivered to the ports along the area."

In the meantime, Boyd says current hikes in price can be blamed more on Labor Day Weekend than on storm damage.

"Oh yes, this weekend, historically, we've always seen prices spike," said Boyd. "Anywhere from 10, 15 even 20 cents for any major holiday."

With bad weather possibly on the way, the damage could be even greater.

"The real concern about the oncoming hurricane," says Boyd.  "...price per barrel (of oil) is already being driven up. So the real concern there is, is that we do see a spike this week, and then another spike on top of that early next week."

Boyd concludes, "That would be the worst case for motorists.

"A spike on top of a spike. Just as there's a sigh of relief about prices, people are seeing them below that 3.50 a gallon. Then yeah, it would be a worst case scenario to see a spike on top of a spike."

Boyd says the true impact of the storm will be more apparent once the strength of the storm, its direction and its overall effect on oil production is known. That impact could start being felt more acutely as early as Friday of Labor Day Weekend.