On Friday morning across the state of Texas, lines snaked out into the streets in multiple directions as motorists queued to fill up their gas tanks. In Dallas, Austin and San Antonio gas stations began running out of gas one after the other.
Rumors of a gas shortage caused by the temporary closure of multiple oil and gas refineries due to Hurricane Harvey lit up social media, prompting Texans to flock to the nearest gas station en masse to fill up before the stations were all empty.
That reaction caused many gas stations to run out of gas, which further worsened the alarm many people felt. But is there really cause for concern?
Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton assured Texans on Thursday that there is no gas shortage.
The Texas Railroad Commission is the oil and gas regulatory agency for the state, and Sitton is one of three people in charge, along with Chairman Christi Craddick and Commissioner Wayne Christian.
In a post to his Twitter account, Sitton said that no gas shortage exists, but that hoarding or stockpiling gas is harmful to Texans.
— Ryan Sitton (@RyanSitton) August 31, 2017
The Commissioner was responding to this tweet from Breitbart columnist Brandon Darby, who commented on a man in San Angelo filling up a 55-gallon drum with gasoline as drivers waited in line for the pumps.
Dude next to me filling up a 55 gallon drum with gas. pic.twitter.com/YTngXzr6Sr
— Brandon Darby (@brandondarby) August 31, 2017
Sitton told the Texas Tribune: "My advice is, look -- if you have three, four or five days and don't need to fill up, be patient. You're going to see that these logistical issues will get resolved. This is not going to last a long time. There's nothing in the market that will make anyone not get gasoline."
After Hurricane Harvey stalled out over Houston causing refineries to close, gas futures went up, and prices rose about 10 cents per gallon. However, experts agreed that the price hike would be temporary, and eventually offset by the reopening of the refineries.
According to the Dallas News, even though about one fifth of the nation's refineries were temporarily shuttered due to flooding, there is not likely to be any major damage that would delay operations. The rains caused by Harvey have all but ceased entirely as the storm headed east toward Beaumont and Louisiana on Tuesday. The waters across Houston are receding every day.
"The chances of this being a long-term shortage is zero," Jay Hatfield, portfolio manager of the AMZA fund for InfraCap, told Dallas News. "The only question is does it last one week, two weeks or three weeks, not a month, two months, three months."
Houston is a significant exporter of gas. So if there seems to be a shortage, the exports will likely be diverted for use here at home instead. In addition, gas can still be shipped in from neighboring states to meet the needs of Texas drivers. Gas is already on the way to Dallas from places like Tulsa.