Southeast facing gas shortages due to Hurricane Ike

HOUSTON (AP) - Some gasoline stations in parts of the Southeast are out of fuel and shortages could persist for days.

That's as refiners continue to recover from the one-two punch of hurricanes Ike and Gustav.

Industry officials also say a crush of people topping off tanks, and even panic buying in some cases, can worsen the problem. Jeff Lenard of the National Association of Convenience Stores says "the system is not equipped for that. The system is equipped for people to buy gas once or twice a week."

Meantime, it's likely that gasoline will get more expensive after the biggest one-day spike ever in the price of oil yesterday.

Oil prices briefly climbed by more than $25 a barrel in a surge triggered by investor anxiety that the government's 700 billion-dollar bailout of financial institutions will boost inflation.

Meanwhile, power's been restored to a dozen Louisiana refineries put out of commission by Hurricane Gustav. But Hurricane Ike's approach closed or disrupted operations at another dozen-plus refineries along the upper Texas Gulf Coast. That area accounts for about 20 percent of the nation's gas and diesel production.

Irving-based Exxon Mobil says its Baytown refinery is producing reduced amounts of gasoline as units power back up. That refinery is the nation's largest. San Antonio-based Valero Energy, which is North America's largest refiner, says its plants in Houston and Texas City are in the midst of a multi-day restart. Meanwhile, Valero's Port Arthur refinery is still dealing with utility issues. In particular, the Port Arthur plant is without a fresh water supply needed for cooling and other uses.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)