Well That’s a Relief: Hurricane Irene Shouldn’t Affect Gas Prices Much

Now that we’ve made it through Hurricane Irene, in many cases with less damage than expected, we can turn our attention to the real question: what does this mean for gas prices?

Hurricane Irene certainly had an impact on transportation, but don't expect a lasting change in gas prices from it. Photo: NY Daily News

From Lexington, Kentucky to Palm Springs, California, consumers have seen some jump in gas prices over the past week. Some say it may have had to do with the fact that one of the 10 East Coast oil refineries shut down temporarily due to the storm.

But don’t blame Irene for all of it. Some of the jump was just market jitters after Fed Chair Ben Bernanke’s speech last week. And a predictable spike in demand during the upcoming Labor Day weekend could push prices higher, according to Stephen Schork, publisher of the industry newsletter the Schork Report, quoted by CNNMoney.

Indeed, writes Eric Jaffe in Infrastructurist, Irene likely won’t have much impact at all:

After Hurricane Ike, in 2008, fuel costs crept toward $5 a gallon in places. But Ike hit the Gulf Coast, where fuel production is several times greater than it is among East Coast refineries. In addition, the supplies that do exist will go further than normal after Irene, since demand plummeted this weekend in the typically high-traffic Northeast.

CNN even speculates that lagging demand could send fuel prices downward.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog readers have commented that a few days with fewer cars (at least in some places) has been a nice change of pace, and Noah hopes that the event will remind people that it’s important to have multiple transportation options. If Irene serves to do that, her impact on transportation would be a heck of a lot more significant than a momentary blip in the price of regular.