COLUMBIA - A hurricane entering the Gulf of Mexico is threatening United States oil production. Hurricane Gustav has already led to increased gasoline prices in Boone County, and the tropical system has the potential to bring heavy rain to Missouri later next week.
Crude oil prices have increased because of speculation by oil companies that the storm will impact oil production in the Gulf, said Ron Leone of Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed right now for oil prices as well as those in the path of the hurricane," Leone said Friday.
Hurricanes can force evacuation of oil derricks in the Gulf Coast, and the shortage of supply results in a rise in crude oil prices. A similar situation occurred during the Katrina and Rita hurricanes, Leone said.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources reported four days of increases in the wholesale price of gasoline this week, and the price per gallon increased 10 cents Thursday in Columbia to $3.49.9. These increases were similar across Missouri.
Kerry Cordray of the state agency's Energy Center said the wholesale price of gasoline declined slightly Friday.But prices at the pump, Cordray said, will not go down unless the storm proves to be less detrimental to the Gulf's oil production than expected.
"Gasoline prices could go down if the hurricane peters out or hits an area that isn't central to oil and natural gas production," Cordray said. "But if it hits crucial areas for oil, we could see some more increases."
Meteorologist Wes Browning of the National Weather Service in St. Louis said Gustav was expected to reach south central Louisiana early Tuesday morning, and by that time should be a category 3 or 4 hurricane. The storm's "cone of uncertainty" stretches from Mobile, Ala. to the Gulf coast of Texas.