Almost five full days after Ike hit the Texas coast and news filtered across the nation that crucial oil refineries were spared, Liberty Country residents — like many Georgians — are left wondering when high gas prices will recede.
Gregg Laskoski, spokesman for AAA Auto Club South, said lingering high gas prices are the result of a trickle-down effect initiated by the temporary refinery closings. He said many gas stations are just trying to keep their heads above water for the time being as they have to compensate for the high prices they are paying.
Laskoski said Georgia in particular is feeling a price crunch because Texas refineries are the state's main source of oil.
"Georgia is very reliant on the fuel in the area," Laskoski said.
Similarly, Randy Bly, director of community relations for AAA Auto Club South, said that contrary to popular belief, most stations don't want to quickly raise prices because it leaves a bad taste in customers’ mouths, customers the stations hope to lure back in the future.
"Most are just passing along the cost. Some are even eating costs to prevent losing customers," Bly said. "It's a very unusual circumstance. It's the steepest increase in price in 35 years."
While these explanations answer a few questions currently on consumers’ minds, not all residents are satisfied. John Henderson III said he understands the situation is a sticky one, but he still feels some gas stations are taking advantage of the circumstances.
Henderson voiced concern after he witnessed area gas stations raising their prices multiple times Friday, leading him to believe something was not right.
"When a station changes its prices up to three times day, that to me is a rip-off," Henderson said.
Henderson is in good company as many people agree the activity looks suspicious. However, reps for AAA Auto Club South said the stations were most likely just anticipating the upcoming spike in wholesale prices.
Henderson though, doesn't think that’s a good enough reason. He said the gas stations are putting unnecessary stress on consumers without absorbing any of the brunt themselves.
"We're the ones having to take it, we're having to pay," said Henderson, who serves as a chairmen of citizen's advisory committee.
During the weekend and the early part of the week, reports of unusually high fuel costs caused talk of price gouging to swirl around the community. But, Anne Infinger, deputy administrator for the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs, said no one acted illegally as long as the stations didn't raise prices after Gov. Sonny Purdue officially declared a state of emergency at 7 p.m. Friday.
Regardless of whether the prices were raised too high, too often or not, both Laskoski and Bly said the surge is most likely over and prices will begin to fall again.
"Once we get over the hurdle, prices will be free falling," Bly said. "The worst is over. There might be spot outages for the rest of the week, but it's not going to last forever."
While it's likely prices will return to normal in the next few days, Infinger, who as of Monday, had received 263 official complaints of price gouging from across the state, said it's still important for consumers to keep their eyes open for price gouging. If you suspect any illegal activity visit, consumer.ga.gov or call 1-800-869-1123 and be prepared to give details about location and pricing.