Drivers packing stations for gas, but no shortage yet in Valley

HARLINGEN — Cars and trucks lining up to get gas and spilling out into nearby streets has been a common sight in cities across the Valley, prompting memories among older residents who recall the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and seeing the block-wrapping queues of vehicles.

But nervous drivers seeking the satisfaction of having a full tank of gas are wrong to think there’s a shortage.

While many gas stations without power remain closed, limiting venues for fill-ups, others are drawing more than their usual number of customers, and there is no fuel shortage.

“From the Port of Harlingen’s perspective, we have not had any feedback from our tenants in regard to any change in commodities coming into the port,” said Walker Smith, port director. “Like everyone in the area we lost power for a period of time on Monday, but from what we know, that did not have any effect on our tonnages.”

The port serves as a transit point for most of the gas and diesel, delivered by barges, which flows into the region.

The lines of drivers at gas stations may have been prompted, at least in part, by a warning issued by TxDOT just before midnight Tuesday, reporting instances of local gas and diesel shortages north of San Antonio.

“Parts of Texas have fuel shortages,” TxDOT tweeted on its Twitter account. “If you must drive, top off before you hit the road. These shortages are happening along I-10, near Van Horn too.”

Gas prices in Brownsville, at least the lowest ones, can be found at Valero and Corner Store at 2636 Boca Chica Blvd. ($2.09 per regular gallon), Murphy USA at 2719 Boca Chica Blvd. ($2.09) and HEB at 1628 Central Blvd. ($2.09).

Gas prices in the Harlingen-Port Isabel area were at Sam’s Club in Harlingen ($2.04 per gallon, regular), Murphy USA near Wal-Mart ($2.04), Murphy USA in Port Isabel ($2.05) and Valero and Stripes at 1313 Haverford Blvd. in Harlingen ($2.06).

In the McAllen area, the cheapest gas can be found at Costco at 1501 W. Kelly Ave. in Pharr ($2.01), Sam’s Club at 1400 E. Jackson Ave. ($2.01) the HEB, 200 U.S. 83 ($2.06) and the Valero and Stripes at 1621 Sam Houston Ave. ($2.06).

But don’t expect those prices to stay steady, because gas and diesel supply lines have taken a hit from the weather, and tight fuel supplies may be in our future.

GasBuddy analysts say the national average price of gasoline may jump 10 to 20 cents per gallon over the next two weeks since millions of barrels of refining capacity went offline due to the extreme cold.

“The quicker the affected refineries are able to come back online, the better, and perhaps less painful for motorists than if they remain out of service for even longer,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Oil prices have continued to rally as global oil demand recovers from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the extreme cold weather shutting refineries down, us motorists just can’t seem to catch a break. We probably won’t see much, if any relief, any time soon.”

De Haan said 11 refineries in Texas and one in Kansas have at least partially shut due to the extreme cold. Refineries in the South, unlike refineries up north, are not designed to handle severe cold and still remain operational.

“Even after this event is over, it may take refineries days or even a week or two to fully return to service, and with gasoline demand likely to accelerate as we approach March and April, the price increases may not quickly fade,” De Haan said.

rkelley@valleystar.com