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Easley Calls For Gas Conservation In N.C.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — With Gulf Coast supplies blocked by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Mike Easley urged North Carolina motorists Wednesday afternoon to conserve gasoline until electricity and pipeline pumping stations are restored in the damaged areas.

North Carolina gas stations usually keep a five-to-seven-day supply of gasoline on hand, but they have not been resupplied since Sunday, Easley said.

"We're not out of gas, but we are running low in the Southeast," Easley said at a news conference.

Several Southeastern states are waiting for power to come back on and direction from the federal government so that gasoline can keep flowing along two major pipelines.

"We don't have a shortage of gasoline. We have a delivery problem," said Bill Weatherspoon, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council, which represents major gasoline retailers.

Roughly 90 percent of North Carolina gas comes from the Colonial and Plantation pipelines originating in Houston, Texas, and going through hard-hit areas in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Easley also asked North Carolina residents to wait for more information before deciding whether to make Labor Day travel plans. He also has banned all nonessential state government travel and asked the U.S. Department of Energy to waive a rule that requires metropolitan areas to use cleaner-burning fuel during summer months.

"With careful use of precious fuel, consumers can help us weather this latest storm," the governor said in a news release.

The rapidly rising prices have caused a problem with old gas pumps that can't compute prices higher than $2.99 a gallon, so North Carolina regulators said stations with the old machines can measure fuel by the half gallon.

The change by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced Wednesday means the total sale would appear to be half price on the pump but the customer would be charged the full price at the cash register, the department said.

About 25 percent of pumps in the state are mechanical, said Jerry Butler, who oversees gas pump inspections for the state.

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