Gas Stations Scramble in Sandy's Aftermath

People line up to fill gas containers at the New Jersey Turnpike's Thomas A. Edison service area Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, near Woodbridge, N.J. After Monday's storm surge from Sandy, many gas stations in the region are without power and those that are open have very long lines.
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And the U.S. Coast Guard opened the Port of New York and New Jersey to tankers Thursday.

Logistical problems will remain, though, for days. Barges can now visit terminals up the Hudson River and into Long Island Sound, but many of the major fuel hubs and terminals near the New York and New Jersey ports still can't offload fuel. They need to get electricity back, pump water out of flooded areas, and inspect equipment before starting operations again.

And gas stations won't be able to open up until they have power, either.

That means tanker trucks will have to travel further to deliver fuel to stations, and customers will have to drive further to find open stations.

It does not mean, however, that the region will run out of gasoline. OPIS's Kloza suspects the long lines are partly a result of panic-buying.

"This is not the Arab Oil Embargo again," he said. "There are moments when hysteria is warranted, and moments it's not. Right now, it's not."

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Prices shouldn't spike like they did in the 1970s — or even as they did before Hurricane Isaac slammed the Gulf Coast this summer. There may be a short-term increase, but gas prices should resume what has been a 6-week slide. Gasoline demand is very low at this time of year, and there's enough fuel to go around — as soon as it can get around.

The national average gasoline price fell a penny to $3.51 per gallon Thursday, according to AAA, OPIS and Wright Express. Six weeks ago the price was $3.87.

Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com, which collects gasoline prices from thousands of drivers, said prices weren't spiking in New York and New Jersey on Thursday. It was just a matter of finding stations that were open and had fuel.

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Samantha Henry and Michael Rubinkam contributed to this story from Newark, N.J.

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Follow Jonathan Fahey on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonathanFahey .

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