Katrina’s Tampa toll

“It can’t just keep going up like this,” USF student David Parapar said in response to the price of gas, which is approaching – and, in some places, exceeding – $3 a gallon in the Tampa Bay area.

Freshmen Brian Ballengee said he would need to buy a new car if gas prices continue to rise. “I’m afraid to fill up my car,” he said, pondering the cost of a 26-gallon tank of gas for his ’69 Riviera.

According to The Tampa Tribune, Hurricane Katrina has caused suppy disruptions for unleaded gasoline. These disruptions have caused gas prices to jump steadily and are causing heavy traffic at pumps.

“People are getting freaked out and filling their tank up every day,” said Parapar. “I got behind a guy who took up two (gas pumps). He used one for his boat and another for his car.”

According to Tampagasprices.com, the average price for gas in Tampa was $2.83 on Thursday, up 10 cents from Wednesday.

And as a result of fear rising along with prices, consumers have caused local gas stations to dry up.

According to a sales associate at Circle K off of Morris Bridge Road, the station ran out of regular unleaded fuel on Wednesday night and was out of premium by Thursday.

According to Ed Mierzejewski, the director of the Center for Urban Transportation Research, consumers should not have to worry about possible gas rationing.

“I’m not sure we have the mechanisms in place right now to actually implement some form of rationing,” he said.

And according to associate economics professor Christopher Thomas, prices should go back to levels prior to Hurricane Katrina in the near future.

“I don’t see disaster looming for the United States or the Southeast,” he said. “The impact of the storm should play out in three to six months. We’ll probably still have high prices, but it will be because of the situation we were in before Katrina.”

Mierzejewski agreed, saying prices should drop to previous levels after stability is restored to the refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thomas refuted the potential for shortages, saying petroleum levels would meet demand despite the loss of 10 percent of the nation’s refining capability.

“Rising prices create incentives for refineries to produce more,” Thomas said. “The only way you can have a shortage is if government officials impose price ceilings against price gouging.”

Even though Thomas said this period of high gas prices would be short term, he didn’t deny that it might spark a recession. He also cited a similar time in history when supply disruptions caused by the Persian Gulf Wars did not result in long lines at the pump.

In addition, both Thomas and Mierzejewski said people would have to practice conservation.

“I think it’s important that we all do our part in reducing our consumption,” Mierzejewski said. “We should try to limit unnecessary trips and, if we can, use a vehicle with better fuel economy.”