Gas Ike: Many stations raise prices as storm threatens oil refineries

Published 7:29 am Monday, September 15, 2008

By By Kerry Whipple Bean-publisher
Tina Findley was in line at one Brewton gas station to pre-pay Friday afternoon when she realized how much it was going to cost her.
So she quickly switched to the station next door - which was still offering gas for $3.53 per gallon - rather than pay $4.65 per gallon.
Drivers around the state were shocked by steeper gas prices Friday as Hurricane Ike threatened oil refineries, but by Friday evening Gov. Bob Riley had declared a state of emergency, which would make price gouging illegal. Riley said the possibility of fuel shortages allowed him to make that decision.
The governor's declaration noted that “disruption of essential utility services, systems and severe energy shortages will likely occur.”
Earlier Friday, the governor's office said Riley's ability to declare a state of emergency was very limited.
By law, an Alabama governor cannot declare a state of emergency unless there has been or there is anticipated to be an attack on the United States, a natural disaster of major proportions impacting Alabama or a public health emergency.
The state law that prohibits “unconscionable pricing” of items for sale or rent goes into effect when the governor has declared a state of emergency.
King's office said it had received hundreds of calls Friday about high gas prices, with reports of some prices at more than $5 per gallon in some areas.
Most per-gallon prices in Brewton remained below $4 Saturday morning, but some stations had run out of regular or mid-grade fuel.
The highest price for regular fuel was $4.65 per gallon at the Jet Pep on U.S. 31 North, which raised its price more than $1 on Friday afternoon. The lowest price remained next door at the Citgo, where it was still $3.53 Saturday morning.
Other area gas prices were around $3.85 to $3.98 per gallon.
King warned businesses not to engage in price gouging.
The Consumer Protection Unit can be reached by calling toll-free to 1-800-392-5658 or through the Attorney General's main Web page at www.ago.state.al.us