Panic at the pump

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September 11, 2008; News 12 at 11

AUGUSTA/AIKEN - You could call it panic at the pumps. Gas stations from Aiken to South Augusta have been dealing with long lines since Thursday afternoon in response to rumors of shortages and impending price hikes.

Along the Gulf coast, ahead of Hurricane Ike, prices shot up to $4.00 and $5.00 a gallon. Also, evacuees in his path are filling up their cars as they head out of town, using more gas then usual and adding to the demand.

News 12 has taken a number of calls from people hearing rumors of a gas-line break that could cause a gas shortage, which is fueling the frenzy. That rumor is not true. There has been no gas line break.

This panic is not a new problem. The same gas panic happened all over the area and the country when the U.S. invaded Iraq. It also happened during Hurricane Katrina and a couple of years ago when hurricane after hurricane pounded Florida.

"It's not fair at all," says one gas customer.

Fair or not, the price at the pump is going up and going up fast.

"From 3 something to more than 4 dollars, yeah, that's outrageous," says another customer.

Some say so outrageous, they think it's price gouging.

"I went out yesterday and it was like $3.89, no $41.9. I had to look twice," says another customer.

"It's gouging. It's a major problem," says another customer.

News 12 investigated the price-gouging claim. Friday afternoon, South Carolina put their gas gouging law into effect.

The Attorney General's Office says criminal and civil charges could be placed on the gas station, if there is a big difference between what the price of gas should be and what it actually is. If there is a problem, you need to document all information, like price, who you talked to, get a receipt, say what the price was and what it is now.

In Georgia, there needs to be a state of emergency enacted for businesses to be charged with taking advantage of gas prices.

"I think the government needs to regulate this," says one customer.

"I don't blame them though. I went through Katrina," says another.

"I know they're trying to make money but their taking the money from the people who support them all the time," says another customer.

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