REGIONAL – If you’re planning to gas up your boat or ATV with premium fuel in advance of the July 4 holiday, you might have a tough time actually finding it. Gasoline inventories are down nearly …
REGIONAL – If you’re planning to gas up your boat or ATV with premium fuel in advance of the July 4 holiday, you might have a tough time actually finding it. Gasoline inventories are down nearly 15 percent, compared to the three-year average, this summer, creating a headache for local gas companies.
According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, gas inventories in the state fell by almost a third in the last three weeks of May before slightly rebounding in the early part of June, but with the July 4 holiday weekend looming, Jim Aker with Rainy Lake Oil’s Cusson office said there could be more trouble ahead, especially for boaters and ATV users.
“We’re short on premium gas for recreational vehicles,” he said. “Since Memorial weekend we haven’t been able to secure gas from our supplier in Wrenshall.”
Emma Bauer at the DOC said both suppliers for the Arrowhead region in Wrenshall and Esko have run dry after flooding in Oklahoma shut a key refinery in Tulsa. That closure was already on top of the shutdown of the Husky Refinery in Superior, Wis., last year following a major fire.
Aker said Rainy Lake Oil, which services about 80 resorts and gas stations in the region, now has to travel further to find product for their customers, often traveling to the Twin Cities or Fargo to secure a steady supply.
That in itself has created a major headache with a shortage of available drivers with HAZMAT certification.
“If we have to haul further, we have to hire more drivers, but we’re not getting them,” Aker said. “There is a severe shortage of hazmat drivers to haul gas. It’s worse than the general truck driver shortage.”
He said the issue is compounded by changing regulations from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in the past few years, reducing the size of fuel storage tanks that some businesses can keep on their properties. The smaller capacities require more truck runs to re-supply.
Without any assistance, Aker worries that some boaters with engines that can take regular unleaded fuel will start dipping into that supply chain as well, which could cause a further shortage of gas products at not only resorts, but area gas stations as well.
“There could be resorts and even some stations that will run low,” he said.
If that happens, gas prices could spike locally. Aker pointed to the winter of 2014 when propane in the area ran low and prices jumped sharply across the region.
The pricing issue, he said, comes from the business model of gasoline.
“Margins and delivery prices are static, costs are not,” he said. “At the refinery level, if there is a shortage, there could be a spike. If boaters turn to standard unleaded gas, it could be even worse.”
Back at the DOC, Bauer said the government is keeping a close eye on the state’s fuel supply as the July 4 weekend draws closer.