Local News

N.C. gas prices sit high above national average

Posted October 4, 2008 11:55 a.m. EDT
Updated October 4, 2008 7:26 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina gas prices are among the highest in the nation, more than three weeks after hurricanes Gustav and Ike damaged Gulf Coast oil facilities.

Statewide, the average price of a gallon of regular, unleaded gas was $3.839 Saturday morning, according to AAA, Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express.

That price was nearly 30 cents higher than the national average and the fourth highest in the country, behind Alaska, Hawaii and Georgia.

Georgia, among Southern states hit by pipeline distribution problems, posted a similar average of $3.855.

North Carolina's neighbors, South Carolina and Virginia, averaged $3.730 and $3.540, respectively.

The amount of gas running along the pipeline from the Gulf to North Carolina has been crimped since the hurricanes hit in mid September, and proximity to distribution points has played a large role in determining gas prices for certain areas.

The western portions of the state have been hit the hardest; on Saturday, drivers were paying $3.955 a gallon in Charlotte and $3.935 in Asheville.

Drivers in the Triangle, which lies between two major distribution hubs, were plopping down an average of $3.868.

The lowest price – $3.712 – was in Wilmington, whose port has seen extra action as a distribution point for gas in the past few weeks.

The cost of gas has generally slipped by a couple cents in the past few days as the normal distribution of gas has gradually resumed. Prices reached their greatest heights immediately after Ike hit, topping $4.31 a gallon in Asheville and setting records in four of North Carolina's six major metropolitan areas.

The gas supply shortage has caused some Triangle stations to sporadically run out of gas, either completely or of one or two fuel types, over the past few weeks. Western areas were harder hit; only one in seven gas stations was open in Charlotte at one point.

The state eased driving restrictions for fuel tankers to help delivery. Three tankers crashed on North Carolina roads this week – in part, some experts say, due to relaxed rules on how much fuel they can carry.

On Friday, Gov. Mike Easley said that the gas shortages will ease as supplies in North Carolina return to full capacity by next week. The oil pipeline that serves the Southeast has been running at capacity since Tuesday, he said.

In late September, experts estimated that it would take a week to two weeks for gas supplies to return to normal across the state. The upper end of that estimation extends to about Oct. 13.