Local News

State Officials Prepare For Higher Gas Prices

Posted September 21, 2005 10:13 a.m. EDT

— On Wednesday, Triangle gas stations continued to pump regular unleaded at well below $3 a gallon. But, Hurricane Rita weighs on everyone's minds.

"Everybody's hunkered down," Gary Harris, of the N.C. Petroleum Marketers Association, said. And, he admits there are concerns.

Consider, he said, the massive cluster of oil rigs and refineries in the Gulf Coast that are already shut down because of evacuations.

If Hurricane Rita travels north, that means trouble, experts said.

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N.C. Petroleum Marketers Association

Now, storm preparations include government leaders looking for ways to ward off Katrina-like gas prices.

"Either cap it at a reasonable price or let's do something nationally to improve our refining capabilities,"

N.C. Governor Mike Easley


When asked if he was willing to forgo North Carolina's gas tax when prices climb again, Easley gave a one word answer: "No."

U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge

, a Democrat who represents the second congressional district of North Carolina, is cosponsoring


to clarify and strengthen price gouging laws.

"All of us have to sacrifice, and it sure does not mean we have to sacrifice for the large oil companies and international groups to wind up sucking money out of people when they're hurt the worst," Etheridge said.

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said his office was monitoring the energy industry to "not let consumers be affected so painfully."

Much of that pain, experts said, now depends on Rita.

"We don't know any of this; the storm could veer south and head into Mexico, so this could all be a moot point," Harris said. "So please don't panic."