Prices declined 4 cents per gallon last week, with Florida drivers paying an average of $3.38 per gallon — the lowest daily average since January, experts said.
"There's actually downward pressure on pump prices, despite the forecast that a hurricane would approach Florida this week," said AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins. "Gasoline and oil futures prices plunged 7% last week, to 8-month lows on concerns that aggressive interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve could trigger an economic recession."
Since Hurricane Ian is not projected to impact refineries in Louisiana, Mississippi or Texas, Jenkins said it is unlikely that the storm itself — or the resulting demand — would cause pump prices to spike.
Demand spikes lead to temporary fuel outages
AAA said it is possible that gas stations will temporarily run out of fuel in the coming days due to an influx of demand from evacuees or people topping off their tanks and filling spare gas cans. But experts remind drivers to remember that any outages are temporary.
"Gas stations are not connected to an underground pipeline. Just like your vehicle, each gas station can only hold so much fuel at a given time. That fuel is stored in tanks underground," AAA said. "Once those tanks are empty, retailers bag the pumps and wait for the next delivery truck. Sometimes that can be the same day, sometimes longer. It can vary."
Florida's gasoline is primarily provided by refineries in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. That gasoline is shipped into Florida's ports, where it is picked up by tanker trucks and delivered to area gas stations. Fuel deliveries should continue until the weather conditions make it unsafe to do so.
Once the storm passes and ports reopen, shipments of gasoline will begin flowing into the state again. Gasoline can also be driven over from surrounding counties or states that are not impacted by Hurricane Ian.
"The bottom line is, don't panic about gasoline supplies, just take what you need," Jenkins said. "The state makes it a priority to keep gasoline shipments going as long as it's safe to do so. Once the storm passes, shipments will resume as soon as possible."
Gas price gouging
If gas prices were to increase as the storm approaches, even after a state of emergency was declared, AAA is often asked whether that is considered price gouging.
AAA says, typically, the answer is "not necessarily."
During a storm-related state of emergency, retailers like gas stations are prohibited from significantly raising prices beyond what they’ve charged in the past 30 days. The exception is if that the cost of obtaining that commodity increased for the business owner. For example, if oil prices unexpectedly surged this week and wholesale gasoline prices spiked, that could raise the price for retailers to obtain their next shipment of gasoline, enabling them to pass along the added expense to consumers.
However, if drivers suspect price gouging at the pump, they're encouraged to report it. For more information on price gouging and how to report it, click here to visit the Florida Attorney General’s website.