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Fuel shortage caused by panic buying in Alabama

AAA-Alabama officials said Tuesday there is not a shortage of gasoline in the state and that panic buying cause some stations to run out of fuel.

AAA spokesman Clay Ingram said motorists should remain patient as stations wait to receive new supplies. Ingram said he expects the supply of gas at stations will return to normal slowly over the next week or so as stations receive new supplies of gas.

Ingram said a rush to the gas pump by many Alabama residents as Hurricane Ike approached the petroleum rich Texas coast Friday caused many stations to run out of gas and caused gas prices to go up 50 cents a gallon or more.

“Because of panic buying, almost every gas station in the state is in need of being restocked. They are all screaming for gas,” Ingram said. He said the situation should improve as wholesalers restock gas station tanks.

He said the situation also should improve as refineries on the Louisiana and Texas coast shutdown by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike resume production.

Gov. Bob Riley said Tuesday he expects the price of gas and the supply to settle down over the next few days.

Riley ordered a state of emergency Friday. That triggered a state law that prevents businesses from price gouging during an emergency. He said the problem was caused by a “rush to buy” on Friday.

“Supply and demand is driving it. I hope supply and demand will moderate it,” Riley said.

Arleen Alexander, executive director of the Petroleum and Convenience Marketers of Alabama, said most retailers are at the mercy of their suppliers.

She said in many cases, the higher prices reflect the price the retailers are having to pay for gas.

“Retailers have the right to cover their cost. They should be allowed to do that,” Alexander said.

A spokesman for the Alabama attorney general’s office said about 2,400 complaints concerning gas prices has been received on a consumer hot line phone since Friday. But Chris Bence said the number of complaints coming in was down on Tuesday.