Local distributor says panic buying led to shortages, price hikes

Panic buying caused the shortage the led to high fuel prices late last week following two hurricanes the shuttered refineries in Texas, one local fuel distributor said Tuesday.

When asked about AAA reports that the Knoxville area had some of the highest fuel prices in the country in the days following Hurricanes Gustov and Ike, Calloway Oil president Tommy Hunt said, “I think it was panic buying Thursday and Friday that actually created the shortage. We did three days worth of business in one day.

“Hopefully they’re going down,” he said of fuel prices. “It will take us a while to get supply back to normal. It will take a while on our side of it, but I don’t think the public will see it as much outages. Instead of taking full loads, we’ll take half loads here and there and just try to take it to locations where it needed right then.”

Hunt said it would probably take about three weeks for supply to get built back up from where the refineries were shut off for Hurricane Gustov, turned back on and then shut off for Hurricane Ike. “We’ll lose probably lose two to three weeks with Ike because of power outages. Getting electricity into the refineries and getting them started and making sure nothing happened goes a long way to determining when we get back to normal. As we begin to get shipments in, the price will drop,” he said.

Hunt said he didn’t think there would be anything like the panic and widespread outages seen last week. The price hikes began to happen Friday morning and afternoon.

Hunt said supplies went quickly, and there weren’t any new shipments in Knoxville until Sunday morning. “It’s been piece-meal shipments and that will probably continue until this coming Friday and Saturday before we get full shipments,” he said.

Hunt said the supply is going to increase. “We’re asking the public to bear with us and just get what they need but don’t top off every container they can find,” he said. “I think we’ll be in good shape.”

Oil companies locally were working to deal with the circumstances brought about by the hurricane. One local distributor said his company was paying $3.90 per gallon and charging $3.99.

Susan McNutt with McNutt Oil, owner of Texaco and Mr. Gas convenience stores in Blount County said the situation last weekend changed by the hour.

Charlie Carruthers, president of Downey Oil said the oil companies put them on a 70 percent allocation as the hurricane loomed and raised the price 35 cents a gallon.

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