While motorists in the New York City and New Jersey area continue to face long lines or no gas at the pumps following Superstorm Sandy, Buffalo area residents should not be impacted by low gas supply or higher prices, petroleum experts said Saturday.
In fact, gasoline prices went down four cents over the past week in the Buffalo region, according to AAA.
Oil refineries in southeastern Pennsylvania that are Western New York’s main suppliers escaped Sandy’s fury undamaged and cut power voluntarily or a day or so early as a precaution, said Wally Smith, vice president of the AAA of Western and Central New York.
“We lucked out,” he said.
Power failures that rendered pumps useless and flooded refineries in the New York City metro area meant downstate New Yorkers weren’t as lucky.
“I don’t see there being any long-term effect here at all,” said Lawrence Southwick, a retired University at Buffalo economist. “It’s just a question of having the inventory available and the capability to deliver it. What they really need to do is restore power to the service stations.”
If suppliers start to look for gas outside the New York City metro area in places such as Buffalo, however, it could lead to a minor price increase here, said one analyst.
“It may have a very small impact on Western New York – perhaps not significantly,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com. “I wouldn’t expect there to be a significant increase in price unless something develops in the next few days.”
In the Buffalo Niagara region, the average cost of a gallon of regular is $3.95, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That’s down 4 cents from a week ago, though still well above the national average of $3.48.
Similarly, GasBuddy.com showed a regional average of $3.93, down from $3.95 a week ago.
Smith said AAA is not predicting an increase in prices across upstate New York, while noting small increases are expected downstate where suppliers have been warned against gouging. Two-thirds of stations in the most severely affected areas were knocked offline by the storm, he said.
“You can just imagine what would happen if two-thirds of our gas stations were not operating,” Smith said. “That would certainly restrict the mobility of people.”
State and federal officials took steps to alleviate the gas crisis in the New York City area with five free mobile fuel stations provided by the U.S. Department of Defense opening Saturday around New York City and Long Island, the Associated Press reported.
But priority was being given to emergency responders’ vehicles.
Counties in northern New Jersey continued to ration fuel based on odd and even license plate numbers in a move that recalled the 1973 oil crisis.