Gas prices down despite Rita

Derek Lenehan

Gas prices have declined following Hurricane Rita, contrasting fears of a possible price hike reaching over five dollars per gallon.

Rita threatened seven major oil refining plants in Louisiana and Texas, as well as their output of roughly 1.7 million barrels of oil every day. Energy expert Peter Beutel told CNN that long gasoline lines were possible, along with $4 and possibly $5 prices.

“This storm is in the wrong place,” he said, “and definitely at the wrong time.”

Gasoline refinement had already been crippled in the region by Hurricane Katrina, which caused the shut down of four refineries when it struck.

Despite these predictions, crude oil prices fell over the weekend on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). A drop of $1.17 per barrel joined a drop of two dollars on Friday to bring the cost for one barrel of crude oil to $63.05. The falling prices were caused by surprisingly little damage to the Gulf’s on-shore oil refineries.

“It appears the refining industry (suffered) a glancing blow,” said Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Despite the recent drop in gas prices, Kent State students are still affected by the prices at the pump.

Melissa Olson, freshman visual communication design major, still called gasoline an impact on her budget.

“I ride the bus any time I can, or try to get a ride with someone else,” she said. “If it got to four dollars a gallon, I would just hang out in Kent all the time.”

The hurricane’s shift in course to the north before making landfall caused the heaviest rain and wind to strike east of the Houston/Galveston area, one of the nation’s largest gasoline refining hubs, according to Only two of the seven threatened refineries, owned by Valero Energy and Shell Oil, reported damage that would cause an extended disruption of oil supply. The two plants combined produce 540,000 barrels per day.

The steady gas prices could change quickly, though. There is a debate among energy experts on the possible prices of regular unleaded in the following week, once damage is fully assessed from Rita. reported that prices over three dollars per gallon are possible as early as next week.

Contact news correspondent Derek Lenehan at [email protected].