As gas prices soared to nearly $3.20 a gallon Friday, many Columbia residents have resorted to hoarding gas, causing a run on the local supply of gas containers.
“They’ve been selling as fast as I can get them in,” said Tracy Lakey, manager of the Tire and Lube Express at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Conley Road. “Customers have been asking for them all day.”
Lakey said 185 five-gallon gas containers were sold between Thursday night and Friday morning, with some customers buying several at a time. All three of Columbia’s Wal-Mart locations and many local gas stations were sold out of the containers by Friday afternoon.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a little extra,” said Larry Kerr, who bought two 2½-gallon containers. “I doubt there will be a shortage, but if there is, I don’t want to have to wait in line.”
Local concerns are likely tied to the long lines at gas stations in Georgia, North Carolina and other areas of the country that rely on the pipelines and refineries that have been shut down or hindered by Hurricane Katrina. The majority of Missouri’s gasoline comes from refineries in Texas and Oklahoma, said Larry Archer, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Energy Center, so gasoline shortages are unlikely here.
“We were lucky,” Archer said.
Real per-gallon prices have surpassed the previous high of $3.11, set in 1981, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and the rapid increases have heightened fears of price gouging. Jim Gardner, press secretary for Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, said the office has received hundreds of complaints in the last few days, sometimes as many as 15 in an hour.