Safe for now: Gas supply stable; experts don't expect shortage; prices up slightly

·4 min read

May 15—While national gasoline prices on average are up about eight cents from last week, Wabash Valley motorists will not face gasoline supply shortages as experienced on the East Coast — especially in southern Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Tennessee.

Those shortages were a result of a cyberattack last week on the Colonial Pipeline, which restarted pipeline operations on Wednesday.

"The restart of the pipeline is very positive news for motorists," said Jeanette McGee, spokesperson for AAA, a nonprofit federation of motor clubs throughout North America. "While impact won't be seen immediately and motorists in affected areas can expect to see a few more days of limited fuel supply, relief is coming. Station pumps will be full of fuel in several days."

Average gasoline prices across Indiana remained at $2.97 Friday, just under $3 per gallon for regular gasoline, while the national average price was $3.03, according to AAA.

Indiana's average price was $2.95 a week ago and $2.79 this time last month. The average price statewide a year ago was $1.86, amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when few people traveled.

In Terre Haute, the average price was $2.93 Friday, but prices ranged between from $2.85 at Sam's Club to $2.99 at a station at Wabash Avenue and Brown Avenue, according to GasBuddy, a Boston-based tech company that operates apps and websites based on real-time fuel prices at more than 150,000 gas stations throughout North America.

The average price in Terre Haute a week ago was $2.90, while it was $2.76 a month ago, according to AAA.

"We really haven't been impacted, not one bit," for fuel supplies, said Phoebe Faris, manager of the Maui StopNShop, a Sunoco convenient store/gasoline station at Seventh Street and Springhill Drive.

"We have used the same fuel provider for the last 12 years and they are really good about keeping us updated if they foresee something" with a fuel supply shortage, Faris said.

The price at the gas station was $2.87 Thursday afternoon.

"I am glad it is where it is at as we have seen it much, much worse," Faris said.

However, comparing average gas prices now to a month ago, Terre Haute motorists are paying 17 cents more per gallon. That can discourage people from going inside convenient stores, which in turns means fewer sales, said Kathy Jackson, a franchise business consultant at Chesters International, known as Chester's or Chester's Chicken.

"It impacts inside sales. People, instead of coming into a store, just get gas and leave," said Jackson, based in Indianapolis, who travels over Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan to look at stores and truck stops. Jackson was at a convenient store/gas station at the intersection of Seventh and Hulman streets on Thursday.

"People are more likely to fill their tanks and leave, because if you are paying more for fuel to go anywhere, you are not spending that money that you would have had to go into [convenient stores] or even restaurants," she said.

"The more they pay at the pump, the less they come into the store," Jackson said.

Memorial Day weekend

While few motorists traveled last year as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across the nation, AAA Travel expects a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel on the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

From May 27 through 31, more than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, an increase of 60% from last year when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000.

Even with an increase in travelers, it is still 13% less — or nearly 6 million fewer travelers than in 2019, said Julie Hall, AAA spokeswoman.

"More than 790,000 Hoosiers are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend," Hall said, which is also up 60% from last year. And "95% of these will be road trips. The top road trip destinations nationally this Memorial Day are Las Vegas, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, Denver and Nashville," she said.

"Even though the CDC has advised that fully vaccinated people can travel domestically at low risk to themselves, it's important to keep in mind that some local and state travel restrictions may still remain in place," Hall said.

Travelers can refer to AAA's COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest information to help plan a trip. Another resource is AAA's new Digital TourBook guide at TourBook.AAA.com.

"Gas prices this Memorial Day will likely be the most expensive since 2014" Hall said. "We don't expect higher gas prices to deter motorists, though, as so many are eager to travel this year. We typically find when pump prices increase, travelers look for more free activities or eat out less while on vacation, but still take their planned trips.

"Prices were climbing nationally due to higher demand and crude prices before the pipeline closed. We expect that trend to continue through Memorial Day weekend," Hall said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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