*** UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler helped usher in a tanker-load of 8,800 gallons of gas at the CitiStop gas station on Biltmore Avenue Thursday afternoon. Shuler said he contacted Jim Haslam, the CEO of Knoxville-based Pilot Travel Centers and a long-time friend, and asked for a shipment to be delivered to Asheville.
Shuler said he’d been contacted by Scott Shealy, vice president at Citizens Fuel in Asheville, which operates 10 CitiStop stores and supplies another 20 stations, and worked out a delivery. The tanker truck arrived with a State Highway Patrol escort, a news helicopter buzzing overhead and other local politicians on hand. State Reps. Susan Fisher and Charles Thomas watched the proceedings, as did state state House candidate Jane Whilden.
Shuler said independent gas stations that sell unbranded gasoline are “at the back of the line” in terms of deliveries, and said he’s written a letter to the Federal Trade Commission to ask the agency to determine whether or not Western North Carolina has been receiving its fair share of gasoline.
Thomas said big oil companies should look at that allocation system and make sure it’s fair. Fisher added that the gas crunch is a harsh reminder “that there is not an infinite supply of gasoline. I think it’s a huge wake-up call.”
Shealy said the profit his company makes off selling the tanker of gasoline delivered Thursday afternoon will be split between MANNA FoodBank and Meals on Wheels. ***
The office of Gov. Mike Easley announced that additional fuel tankers carrying hundreds of thousands of gallons from Wilmington, Tennessee and South Carolina are being sent to the gas-starved region, as the major oil companies agreed to release more supplies.
A press release from the governor’s office said that hundreds of thousands of gallons of gas will be arriving in the area during the next two days. Easley thanked the oil companies, noting that he had no power to change their delivery routes and that their agreement has been voluntary.
The entire region has been hit hard by refinery shutdowns, stemming from hurricanes Gustav and Ike hitting the Gulf Coast area. That impact has been amplified by the fact that the area has more independent gas stations than other places. Independents get fuel from distributors only after major oil companies, such as Exxon, have been supplied.
At a press conference yesterday, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy criticized the governor’s office for not acting more quickly, asserting that “Western North Carolina needs to stand up and tell the governor how we feel. North Carolina doesn’t stop at Hickory.”
The full release from the governor’s office is below.
— David Forbes, staff writer
GOV. EASLEY ANNOUNCES ADDITIONAL GAS SHIPMENTS HEADED
TO NORTH CAROLINA
RALEIGH – Gov. Mike Easley announced this afternoon that substantial additional gasoline supplies have been released to North Carolina.
“The major oil companies have agreed to make additional gas supplies available to hard hits areas of our state, particularly western North Carolina,” said Easley. “We are getting tankers from Wilmington, Tennessee and South Carolina terminals to bring hundreds of thousands of gallons of gas to those most in need.”
The governor said the additional gallons of gas will be available over the next two days.
“I am grateful to the oil companies for trying to get gas to our people. They do not have to make these changes in their delivery routine and I have no power to make them. They have agreed to do this voluntarily,” Easley said.
“I have a lot of staff working very hard on this and am asking people to be reasonable and cooperative with each other. Conserve for a few more days and we will be fine. We are going to continue to work hard to get every possible gallon of gasoline to the locations where it is needed.”
The gas shortage that was caused by refinery shutdowns during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike has been worse in rural areas of North Carolina because those areas tend to have more independently-owned gas stations. The independent stations typically do not have long term contracts for gasoline delivery, while stations that carry major brand names do have contracts. The independents run out of gas first, consequently it is important that the brand companies have come through with extra fuel for the state.