One expert says Iowans can expect another big jump in gasoline prices due to Hurricane Katrina. Some analysts predict prices may rise 30 or 40-cents a gallon within a day or two. Triple-A-Iowa spokeswoman Dawn Duffy wouldn’t offer a range but does confirm prices will be going higher. Demand for gas is up right now, it’s two-and-a-half percent higher than a year ago and prices are 60-to-70-cents a gallon higher. Duffy says the storm -will- effect gas prices, but no one knows to what extent. Reports say crews from 800 oil rigs have been evacuated in the Gulf of Mexico, cutting off more than a half-million gallons of crude per day. Duffy says that will translate to rapidly escalating pump prices. Fears about gas prices jumps are rampant, especially since they can happen overnight. The national average is now 2-60 a gallon and Iowa is five-cents cheaper at 2-55. Duffy says wise consumers might fill their tanks this morning or this afternoon. With Katrina being such a large hurricane hitting so many oil production facilities, the refining and importing will be crippled, though no one knows how long it may last. Iowa’s current statewide average of 2-55 a gallon is just a half-cent below the all-time high price, set last week. Al Goldberg, supervisor of the Iowa D-N-R’s energy section says he’s trying to stay optimistic about the prices, but must be realistic, given the expanse of the big storm. Goldberg says “All of the pumps and refineries in the Gulf (of Mexico) area have been shut down. Workers have been evacuated and that area’s responsible for 30-percent of the gas and oil to the U-S. So, a lot of it depends on whether it’s just a shutdown or there’s going to be permanent damage.” Goldberg says if thousands of Iowa motorists panic and rush off to top off their tanks, it could artificially inflate demand and the feared gas price spike would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He says “It certainly could. It is a supply and demand issue and it’s going to be local too if everyone does go to the pumps to fill up. Our recommendation right now is just keep it according to your normal schedule and wait and see what happens with the damage in the gulf.” Iowa’s statewide average for a gallon of self-service unleaded gasoline is 2-55, a fraction of a cent below the all-time high, set August 21st.
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