New York – In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, drivers have been forced to endure long lines and non-working pumps in New York City and Nassau County, even as gasoline is much more readily available in most of New Jersey, Suffolk and north of New York City.
A major factor in obtaining gasoline depends on where a region gets its supply from, industry insiders told the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/SF0NRk). The gasoline distribution system is “a sprawling, decentralized network” composed of different gas stations, all of which work with different distributors to ensure transportation of gasoline from regional terminals. The terminals receive and store gasoline which is deposited by tankers and barges. In New York City, many of the gas stations depend on distribution terminals located in Queens and Brooklyn. However, these terminals have either lost power, were damaged in the hurricane, or are not yet entirely operational. The Nassau County terminal based in Inwood, New York is also not fully functioning.
As of yesterday, 75 percent of New York City’s gas stations remained without gasoline. In contrast, the regional average stands at 24 percent, according to Gasbuddy.com, a website which has been monitoring which New York region stations have fuel. Patrick DeHaan, an employee at Gasbuddy.com, points out that the pressure on the system is also made worse by panicked drivers who have “a sudden, insatiable demand for gasoline” and are stocking up on gasoline they do not immediately need.
AAA Spokesman Michael Green said that even though power has been restored to many stations, the real issue lies with the distribution network. “This week, it is shifting more to being a supply-system problem: getting gasoline from storage to distribution terminals to gas stations to the car you drive,” he said. Nine out of 57 petroleum terminals impacted by the hurricane remain closed according to federal energy officials. Of those nine, seven are located in New Jersey, one in Brooklyn and one on Long Island.
New Jersey gasoline terminals have bounced back more quickly than in New York City because most of the terminals in the southern part of New Jersey remained undamaged, and gas stations in that area are situated closer to key refineries and transportation routes. The rationing system has also helped to balance supply and demand.
Ralph Bombardiere of the New York State Association of Service Stations and Repair Shops said efforts to resolve the gas shortage have been hampered by a lack of understanding on the part of elected officials about how the gasoline distribution system works. He notes that barges carrying oil could not dock at regional terminals for days after the storm because the New York Harbor was closed. “Someone in a tie should have said, ‘Where are the barges?’” he said. “It must have taken 10 to 15 telephone calls to get that message out. In case of a crisis, they have to start at the beginning.”
Meanwhile NBC News is reporting that the Gas Crisis Could Last for Weeks.