As Hurricane Ida barrels through Louisiana, knocking power out and putting lives at risk, the storm also threatens to send the price of gasoline even higher just as Americans prepare to take to the roads for Labor Day weekend.
The national average gas price is already high, stabilizing in recent weeks around $3.15 per gallon, up more than 34 percent from a year ago when prices at the pump were slashed amid the pandemic.
But the effects of the storm could soon send prices spiking again — just as millions across the country load up their cars for Labor Day weekend trips — according to the American Automobile Association.
Refineries in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama make up more than 45 percent of the country’s capacity for refining crude oil into gasoline, AAA said. And the region is home to almost 2,000 offshore oil platforms, accounting for 17 percent of the nation’s crude oil production.
Ida made landfall Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, which produces about 18 percent of the US oil supply.
The overall impact of the storm on oil production and refining operations is still being assessed and it’s unclear how long downed facilities will remain out of action.
But, AAA said, it’s clear at this point that the storm has wreaked havoc, with nine refineries in Ida’s forecasted track, responsible for 13 percent of capacity nationwide. Four refineries safely shut down before the storm and another one reduced operations.
Additionally, over 90 percent of offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico — accounting for 15 percent of US production — were shut down and evacuated before the storm.
And Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s biggest oil pipeline that grabbed headlines earlier this year over a crippling cyber attack, shut down some of its key pipelines on Sunday as a precaution.
“Drivers will almost assuredly see gas prices rise this week, because of Hurricane Ida’s effects on the Gulf Coast,” Mark Jenkins, AAA Florida spokesman, said in a statement. “Based on overnight movement in the futures market, a 10-20 cent jump at the pump is not out of the question.
“Where gas prices go from here will depend on the extent of the damage and how long it will take for fuel production and transportation lines to return to normal.”
AAA Northeast, which covers New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island did not immediately return The Post’s request for comment.
The situation could be a “nightmare” for gas prices, Phil Flynn with the Price Futures Group told FOX Business.
“I expect the track of the storm could add anywhere from $.05 – $.10 a gallon,” Flynn said, noting that could be a rosy estimate. He said flooding, power outages and extended periods of downtime, which power companies have already warned of, will add to the cost of gasoline.
“We also have to be a little bit concerned about oil platforms,” Flynn added. “Even as they are hunkered down, the type of storm could do some longer-term damage to oil rigs and platforms.”
GasBuddy analyst Patrick DeHaan said Sunday evening that he’s confident “Hurricane Ida isn’t likely to lead to drastic price increases,” but added that some price hikes over the next two weeks are likely.
Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, told Bloomberg that the impact of a Category 4 hurricane like Ida shouldn’t be underestimated.
“For a Category 4, you could be looking at four to six weeks or more of downtime for the refineries,” he said.