Texas Railroad Commissioner: "There is plenty of gas out there"

Amanda Elston
Staff Writer

The fuel shortage scare is a self-fulfilling prophecy according to Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton. While Texas has “plenty of gas”, rumors circulated by social media and some news outlets have caused Texans to panic, causing long lines and closures at the pump throughout the state.
“(I) know that this is frustrating. It's scary for people.” said Sitton. “There are lines 20 cars long and an hour wait and this one down the street is closed. It would panic you. It would panic me. ...Right now in Texas … in Texas there are about 15 refineries that have been taken down due to (Hurricane Harvey) or are at reduced capacity. That reduced capacity is about three million barrels a day of crude processing which equates to about two million barrels a day of gasoline. So two million barrels of gasoline is out of production right now. However, in the United States today are 230 million barrels of gasoline in inventory in storage. There is not a gasoline shortage in the United States. “
Sitton explained that the situation was caused by more people than normal heading to the pump. While there is no gas shortage, there are some logistical issues such as transporting fuel from different pipelines not impacted by Hurricane Harvey, meaning some trucks have to drive a bit further than normal to pick up the fuel.
“Virtually every gas station in the U.S., especially in Texas, is refilled by a truck,” said Sitton. “So a truck comes from some sort of distribution terminal that is either filled by bigger trucks or or trains, usually by pipelines. So a pipeline comes in and brings gasoline, the gasoline sits at that terminal, trucks come by and fill up and take that gasoline out to stations. Those trucks move on regular intervals... If 10 times the amount of people get gasoline today, then the next scheduled truck won't come for ten days.”
Gas stations around the DFW metroplex and the state of Texas are working by calling different suppliers to get their gas supply replenished.
Sitton, while reminding people he was not an attorney, warned people of gasoline gouging and not to pay an exponential amount for gasoline.
“If you are seeing ten dollar gasoline that looks a lot like gouging,” said Sitton. “Short term can have an impact on prices.”
Sitton went on to say that specific stores might be having to get gasoline from different sources than those impacted by the hurricane.
“You might see 20-50 cent rise," he said. "When it is a few dollars extra – then it looks like something is fishy.”
And while there might be specific pockets of gas stations that take an extra few days to receive gasoline, Sitton said he doesn't see this being an issue for more than a few days.
“It is possible that neighborhood gas stations may run out, but as a region there will be gasoline,” said Sitton. “There might be pockets that take a few days, but I don't believe a week from now this will be an issue.”
As far as where the rumors of gas shortages came from, Sitton speculates word-of-mouth and social media had a lot to do with it.
“What happened was there was a broad story that refineries were shut down and a few pipelines were shut down,” said Sitton. “A few people speculated that there could be gas shortages and that began this. People started to fill up and and you started seeing short lines and then long lines and then prices go up and then there's social media. It a public panic.
“This is a case of self-fulfilling prophecy,” continued Sitton. “People are hearing concerns that we are out of gas and texting each other saying, 'Oh my gosh, you need to get gas'. People are taking their gas cans, Suburbans...even if the refineries were up and running, people would still be running into this issue.”
Sitton encourages those that have gas in their vehicles or do not have much traveling to do to sit tight and the gas market will be back to normal within a few days.
“If you have a full tank or know you can go three to four days without gas, I would not be worried,” said Sitton.