Charlotte has the highest gasoline prices in the continental United States, AAA says. And it may be weeks before they drop.
“I think it's a minimum of two weeks that we're going to see ourselves among the most highly priced gas in the nation, maybe longer,” Tom Crosby, a spokesman for AAA Carolinas, said Tuesday.
“We're a little farther along the pipeline, and we also have a higher tax than anyone else, about 30 cents per gallon … We're not on an equal playing field because of gasoline taxes.”
By comparison, Crosby said, South Carolina's gas tax is 17 cents per gallon. Georgia's is 26 cents.
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On Tuesday, gas in the Charlotte area sold for an average of $3.90 for a gallon of regular. Elsewhere in the state, the average was $3.88 in Asheville and $3.84 in Raleigh. The national average was $3.48.
The primary problem is continuing low production by oil refineries on the Gulf Coast, where Charlotte gets its gas through two large pipelines. Some refineries are still behind in production after last month's hurricanes.
Although the Charlotte area's gas crisis of a week ago has largely passed, some area stations – one in 10, AAA estimates – are still empty or lack some grades such as premium.
“We are in tight supply, living on the edge of what we consume,” Crosby said. “We're not getting enough product in to build inventory.”
Hurricane Ike was the main culprit. As the storm made landfall Sept. 13 in Texas, it crippled more than a dozen refineries along the Gulf Coast, which supplies about 20 percent of the nation's gas. Prices shot up.
Then, late in the month, the gas supply in much of the Southeast simply dried up as motorists rushed to top off their tanks. Scuffles at gas stations were common, and police reported at least one arrest.