Boston Endures Gasoline Shortage for a Few Hours : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Boston Endures Gasoline Shortage for a Few Hours Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Publication date: 2000-08-16

Aug. 16--For a few hours yesterday Boston was on the brink of a gasoline shortage.

In the end, the emergency was relieved with the arrival of two ships and a coastal barge carrying fresh supplies of regular unleaded gasoline that had been delayed for up to two days by foul weather at sea.

The fact the episode occurred at all, however, underscored concern by analysts that Boston-area gasoline and heating oil distributors are keeping their tanks close to empty, fearing that a sudden drop in price could leave them holding expensive inventories.

The effects of such caution show up clearly in reports by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which show distributor stocks of gasoline in New England as of Aug. 4 were 31 percent below levels during the first week of August 1999.

"This issue of living on the margin is not new, but it looks like it has really caught up with New England," Ronald B. Gold, vice president of the New York-based Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, said in a telephone interview.

As many as five of the waterfront fuel terminals that line Chelsea Creek between East Boston and Revere either ran out of regular gas or rationed their limited supplies until, starting about noon, millions of gallons of replacement fuel began to arrive, according to managers at three of those terminals.

The managers, who asked to not be identified, said affected terminals included those operated by Gulf Oil, Irving Oil Co., and Global Petroleum Corp. Trucks awaiting fresh supplies formed lines that sometimes stretched onto Route 1A near Logan Airport.

Independent, "unbranded" gasoline retailers bore the brunt of the shortage. John Quinn, executive director of the Massachusetts Petroleum Council, said he was told that for several hours, Boston-area independent dealers could get gas only from Citgo in Quincy, or in Rhode Island.

Paul Lever, owner of an independent station on North Street in Wakefield, said his hauling contractor went to four terminals before finding one that would supply 9,500 gallons of regular unleaded gas and 1,500 gallons of premium fuel.

Terminal managers said fog and foul weather, related to Tropical Storm Alberto and a second coastal storm, slowed the arrival of vessels that were expected in Boston Harbor on Sunday and Monday. The National Weather Service said Alberto was winding down last night off Newfoundland.

But concern was intensified by the fact gasoline demand is at its annual summer peak. "There's a similarity here to the heating oil situation" in February, Gold said.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 16, 2000

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