The average cost of a gallon of gas in the Triangle jumped another two cents overnight as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey continue to take a toll on refineries and other facilities along the Texas coast.
The average price for regular unleaded in the Triangle on Tuesday morning was $2.247, according to AAA. That’s up nearly a nickel from the same point last week.
How much pump prices will continue rise in the coming week as the affect of the storm lingers is not clear.
“We still don’t know the full effects of Hurricane Harvey, which could have the potential to push pump prices higher as Labor Day approaches,” AAA Carolinas spokeswoman Tiffany Wright said late Monday.
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The Triangle receives most of its petroleum products from the Gulf Coast. As of Monday, about one quarter of oil refining capacity in the region had been taken offline, according to the Oil Price Information Service.
And Colonial Pipeline Co., whose pipelines carry most of that fuel to North Carolina, reported Tuesday that it was operating at a “reduced capacity due to limited supply from Houston-area origins, and storm related damage,” but that it was still capable of moving fuel from points east of the city “as supplies become available.” Colonial’s pipelines serve terminals in Greensboro and Selma.
AAA said before the storm hit that hurricanes typically have a limited impact on the supply of gasoline, as refineries return to full operation as soon as possible.
But it’s not clear yet how long the Texas refineries will be affected by Harvey. Refineries in Corpus Christi, near where the storm made landfall, closed in advance of the storm, while Houston-area refineries remained open until Sunday, when flooding forced some to begin shutting down.
Wright noted that the Carolinas had ample supply of fuel before the storm and urged people not to panic, which could make things worse.
“Don’t overconsume or change spending habits at the gas station,” she said. “These behaviors could lead to gas shortages across the Carolinas.”
How to save money
As prices rise, your mobile phone can help you save money at the pump. Here are some details on some free gas-finder apps for iPhones and Android devices. As with anything you do on a mobile phone while driving, you should use these safely, and not while moving in traffic.
GasBuddy: It’s perhaps the most-used app for finding the cheapest gasoline. GasBuddy uses crowdsourcing – users report price data they see, which helps other users.
On launch, GasBuddy will tell you the average reported price for your area, the lowest reported price and the recent trend – handy for making comparisons. Stations are listed or plotted on a map; you can get directions and phone numbers and also rate the stations. Like many of these apps, GasBuddy tells you how long ago the price was reported. Users earn points and are entered in a daily drawing for $100 in gasoline when they report a price.
Gas Guru: This one has the advantage of a very simple interface, which is important if you’re consulting it quickly at a stoplight. Like most gas-finder apps, it gives you either a list of best prices nearby or plots them on a map, whichever you prefer. There’s a “best nearby” button that will simply give you the best price it can find in your area. The prices are color-coded, which makes them easy to sort – yellow for good, green for best (and gray for not so great).
You can get directions to any station on either Google Maps or Apple Maps. And as with most of these apps, you can see prices near your location, or choose a location if you want to check prices at your destination.
MapQuest Gas Prices: The days when “mapquest” was a verb are pretty much gone, but MapQuest’s fuel-finder app is still a good one. It also lists the best nearby prices or plots them on a map, lets you sort the display by price or by distance and can search any location.
The MapQuest app has some other nice features. Like Gas Guru, it lets you search for different types of fuel, but it also includes E85 and diesel, which is handy if you use something other than standard gasoline. It offers directions (yes, on MapQuest) and lets you build a list of favorite stations that you can check quickly.
Fuelzee: It’s similar to GasBuddy; there are daily contests, and you earn points toward rewards by reporting prices (and leaving comments). Those rewards, which include discounts on fuel, are mostly the standard retailer come-ons, but they’re still nice to have available.
You also can track your gasoline usage on Fuelzee (a fine feature for people who want to claim a tax deduction), and you can get notifications of special deals nearby, which is either useful or annoying (and if it’s the latter, you can turn them off).
Cheap Gas!: It’s similar in the important ways to the others, and simple to use, with data reported by users.
One distinctive function is the “cyborg” tool, which allows you to hold up your phone and see gas prices in the direction you’re looking. (A sort of augmented-reality function, but more commercially mundane.) If you want to use this function, please let a passenger do it for you.
Waze: You may be using Waze already for navigation and crowdsourced traffic information. Its motto is “Outsmarting Traffic, Together.” It’s great for avoiding tie-ups, getting estimated travel times and finding out from other drivers where the troopers are hiding.
But it also gives you gas price information, if you’re willing to work a little to find it – the process is not intuitive. Its data also tend to be a little old – many stations’ prices are from four days ago or more. If you have Waze already, you can use the gas finder function by tapping the search button and figuring it out from there, but Waze is better for navigating traffic.