PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you haven’t noticed yet, you will the next time you pump gas.
“I actually just noticed it today,” said one customer at the pump.
Gasoline prices are going up and there’s one obvious explanation — a devastating, long-lasting storm in Texas.
“Fifteen refineries — the latest I saw — have been shut down as a result of the flooding in Texas,” attorney Joseph Reinhart told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.
Reinhart is an oil and gas energy expert here in Pittsburgh, and he says it’s not just the closed refineries where gasoline is made that’s causing a problem.
“With the ports themselves being shut down, with pipelines, with general infrastructure, it creates a real problem,” he said.
Analysts say the storm has taken out about 18 percent of the nation’s refining capacity — at least in the short term.
Usually after Labor Day, gasoline prices go down, as the summer vacation travel season ends and we head into the much slower winter months.
But Hurricane Harvey may have changed that basic economic pattern — at least for a while.
So how high could gasoline prices go?
“Generally, we’re predicting a 5 to 15 cent increase in gas prices nationally,” says James Garrity, of AAA.
Garrity says the increase could be worse here, but it will be spread out.
“What we’re seeing with this hurricane that makes it different from previous ones we’ve had is that we’re not projecting a major spike all at once, for example,” he said.
“We’re projecting it to be a slight increase over the next nine to 10 days,” added Garrity.
And both Garrity and Reinhart think the price increase will be temporary.
“We have a lot of crude oil and gasoline in storage; we’re making the transition to winter-blend; demand is going to drop off,” says Garrity. “Consumers can expect to see prices go down. However, in the meantime, they’re going to see them go up.”