Railroad commissioner: There's no fuel crisis in Texas

Some gas stations are running out of fuel, but Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton says it's a demand issue and not a supply issue.
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As gas prices spike across Texas and fuel runs short at some gas stations, officials say there's no shortage of fuel in the state because of Harvey.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton said consumers are putting undue demand on fuel and that's making it difficult to resupply gas stations in a timely fashion. He called the problem simply one of demand and logistics. 

"There's plenty of gasoline," he said. "This will subside."

According to Sitton, the concerns started when refineries began shutting down along the Gulf Coast due to Hurricane Harvey. As news spread, so did concern over a potential shortage, leading to large rushes to stations. 

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Sitton says he understands the worry as people drive up to gas stations and see high prices, long lines and red bags covering gas pumps.

But here's why this is happening, the commissioner says:

• Rumors spread of shortage, spurring rush to gas stations

• Gas stations see higher demand than usual

• Stations run out of gas at a high rate due to demand

• Station owners become concerned about supply, raise prices

• So many stations run out of gas it takes longer to resupply

"Remember the old stories of runs on the bank?" he said in a phone interview broadcast on WFAA's Facebook page. "If everyone goes to the bank at the same time and tries to get their money, then it causes a panic and the bank doesn't have enough cash in the drawer to give everyone their money ... The bank has your money, it's just not sitting at that one [branch]."

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Just like the banks, Sitton said there's plenty of supply, but it will take longer to get that gasoline to the stations due to the high demand. 

This is what Sitton says about supply:

• The entire world uses 100 million of refined product daily

• The U.S. refines 18 million of those 100 million barrels

• Six million of that 18 million is refined in Texas

• About half of that six million is currently offline or at reduced capacity due to Harvey

"So, yes, that's a lot," Sitton said. "However, we have 230 million barrels of gasoline in storage in the United States right now. So if that three million barrels of refined capacity stayed offline for an entire month that would be 90 million barrels that wouldn't be produced. That would be less than half of what we have in inventory." 

And Sitton said that shouldn't even be a concern. 

"We don't expect these refineries to be down that long," he said. "We expect that there might be a couple that stay down that long, but some of them, like in Corpus Christi, are already working to go back online."

So what is the bottom line according to Sitton?

"Concerns and even panic over gasoline shortages are leading to a sense that there's a gasoline shortage," he said. "When in fact, there isn't one."

Video: Long lines reported at gas stations in North Texas