Gasoline shortage is bad and could get worse before it gets better

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If you’ve been out and about today and experienced long lines at the gas pump, get used to it.

Gasoline is in short supply, demand is rapidly increasing and it’s only going  to get worse.

“Gas stations that usually take three days to go through a single delivery are now running through it in four or five hours,” says Josh Millazzo, retail fuel manager of Denham Springs-based Lard Oil Company, which distributes gasoline to more than 150 retail stations in southeast Louisiana, including Baton Rouge. “It’s tough to manage.”

On the supply side, the issues are the result of infrastructure problems created by Hurricane Ida:

• Refineries are down throughout the region;
• Big rig drivers, already in short supply before the storm, have been impacted by the hurricane like everyone else and in some cases have been difficult to contact or unable to come to work;
• Delays at the fuel terminal racks, where tankers fill up, are having a ripple effect.

“Ordinarily, we pull up to the rack and fill up in 20 minutes,” Millazzo says. “Now, that is taking two to three hours, and every one of those delays means one less store we can’t get to.”

On the demand side:

• As power outages continue, a growing number of customers are filling up gas cans to feed their generators.
• Many responders from outside the area are using Baton Rouge as a staging area and filling up their vehicles at Baton Rouge gas stations.
• As more people return to work, they need fuel and, in some cases, are panic buying, topping off their tanks because they’re afraid of running out.

“People are anxious,” Millazzo says. “Someone goes down to a half tank and is fearful of getting caught so they’re constantly filling up.”

And it’s expected to intensify, particularly with New Orleans and harder hit areas facing weeks without power.

“To be honest, I think it’s going to be like this for the next couple of weeks, Millazzo says. “You’re not going to have your normal supply and there are so many people coming in from out of town to help or to stay here and they’re going to buy fuel here to bring with them to New Orleans or the Northshore.”

For retailers, the challenge is in managing the situation. At Benny’s B-Quik, all three service stations were out of gas today, with lines snaking down Airline Highway and Perkins Road.

A load was expected at the Perkins Road location earlier today, but was delayed two hours.

“It’s terrible,” Benny’s owner Justin Alford says. “Thankfully, the Baton Rouge Police have been a big help just helping us direct traffic and keep everybody in line.”