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Motorists aren’t only ones hurt by gas shortages

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
Drivers aren’t the only ones feeling the pain of gasoline shortages in the wake of Hurricane Ike.
Local service station owners and oil distributors are hurting as well.
Not only do they have to deal with sometimes unhappy customers, but supply worries are limiting the amount of gas they can sell.
“I’m getting half of the order I usually get,” said Jerry Alligood, owner of Jerry’s Shell on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
“We were out of gas last Friday evening from 6 till the next morning. We got half a load during the night,” Alligood said.
His usual order of regular unleaded is 8,800 gallons. Now, he can only get 4,400.
Bobby Mault, who runs Mault Brothers Texaco on N.C. 152, said the station is also still “on allocation.”
“I ordered 10,000 (gallons) but they sent 4,500,” Mault said.
The good news is the wholesale price of fuel is dropping as fears ease.
“Gas has gone down 10 cents,” Mault said. “But if you can’t get gas, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. If you can’t get it, you don’t have it to sell.”
Mault was selling regular unleaded for $3.99 per gallon late Tuesday.
Jerry’s Shell was selling regular for $3.90, Alligood said. He said shortages were beginning to ease as refining facilities are repaired.
“They told us at first that three refineries were damaged, then it was 14, then 12, and last night it was 10. They’re coming back.”
Local shortages this week have had customers seeking any port in the storm.
Peter Fowler, an employee at Roger’s Exxon on South Fulton Street, said regular is selling there for $4.48 ó “but it’s higher because we go out there and pump it for them,” he said.
One thing local owners have agreed on is that their customers aren’t blaming them.
“They think it’s a great big oil company rip-off,” Alligood said. “But believe me, it is not.”
He also blamed TV news reports for causing the shortages.
“The TV news announces it’s going to go up a dollar a gallon, go out and buy your fuel right now,” Alligood said.
“If you get in the media and tell them it’s going to be hard to find, it’s going to be hard to find because they are going to go out and stockpile it.”
Mault said customer anger hasn’t been an issue for him.
“I’ve been here for 55 years,” he said. “Most people who trade with me understand.”
“You have trouble with people coming in who you aren’t familiar with. But my customers are real dedicated.”
Alligood said prices may fall more slowly across the area because station owners order fuel without knowing the exact cost. “And that’s why you see some at $3.89, some at $3.99 and some at $4.19,” he said. “The gas is costing those stations different amounts depending on when they got it in.”
Stations in the area are selling regular unleaded from $3.96 to $3.99 per gallon.
The AAA “Fuel Finder” Web site listed the average price of regular unleaded in the Salisbury area at $4.01.
The lowest price observed in the area was at the Pilot station at Lane Street and Interstate 85. Regular unleaded was selling there for $3.79 a gallon at noon on Thursday.

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