In an effort to protect the state’s dwindling fuel reserves, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has issued an order restricting motorists in 12 northern counties to buying gas every other day.
Chris Christie says he wants to ease long lines and extended wait times at gas stations and prevent a fuel shortage in the state hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy. Some gas stations closed because of a lack of electricity or gasoline, causing those open to be overburdened with customers.
Prices at the pump have remained steady despite the shortages, AAA said, averaging just below $4 a gallon in New York City, 2 cents lower than last week. However, on Long Island, where only a third of all stations were working, average gasoline prices jumped 5 cents from a day earlier.
But online, Craigslist users started offering gasoline for as much as $15 a gallon to motorists and homeowners not wishing to brave the lines.
It was also revealed that a third day of gasoline “panic buying” among storm-stricken New York area motorists prompted authorities on Friday to tap strategic oil reserves and waive shipping regulations even as limited deliveries resumed in the battered region.
The U.S. government said it will loan 2 million gallons of diesel from the Northeast emergency heating oil reserve to the military for recovery efforts, and waived rules barring foreign-flagged vessels from carrying fuel between U.S. ports in a bid to boost supplies.
Drivers with license plates ending in an even number will be able to buy gas on even-numbered days, and those with plates ending in an odd number can make gas purchases on odd-numbered days.
A Gov. Chris Christie spokesman tells the Star-Ledger newspaper in Newark that there currently are no restrictions on filling gas containers.
Chris Christie’s order comes as President Barack Obama announced buying 22 million gallons of gas to help get residents of some of the areas worst affected by Hurricane Sandy back on the road.
The administration has purchased up to 12 million gallons of unleaded fuel and up to 10 million gallons of diesel fuel that will be distributed in New York and New Jersey to supplement private sector efforts.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that another 28 million gallons of fuel will be delivered over the next few days.
The Department of Defense will also set up mobile fuel stations around the New York metro area to distribute gasoline, offering only 10 gallons per-person but free of charge.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said on Friday that the President had directed the Defense Logistics Agency to handle the purchase of the fuel.
It will be transported by tanker trucks and distributed throughout the two states and other communities impacted by the storm.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the fuel purchase is part of efforts by governments, private organizations and others to help the region recover from the Superstorm, which left residents queuing at gas stations for a diminishing supply of fuel.
This purchase is in addition to an emergency diesel fuel loan from the Energy Department’s Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve.
Large parts of the tri-state area were left without power for five days after the storm struck and fuel shortages have become even more dire, prompting some opportunist convenience store owners to charge as much as $6 a gallon.
Becoming ever more desperate for fuel, residents have been bickering over their place in the queue at gas stations and even brandishing firearms to get what they need.
Along the New Jersey turnpike cars have lined up for miles in the hope of getting fuel, but gas stations in many outer-borough areas are sealed off with yellow tape.
As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo promises that fuel-starved areas will be getting relief and “people will see it quickly”, these motorists want gas and they want answers.
Earl Lucas, 72, had seen something like it before – in the Seventies when, he said, there was “a real gas shortage”.
He added: “People are angry because the gas is there they just can’t get it. Do you know how to get it? Can you use your influence to get some?
“There were five trucks came in here from a Catholic charity and they got straight through and filled up. Some people can get it.”
A source from the Coast Guard told DNAInfo that two million barrels of petrol were being unloaded in surrounding ports, and tankers are heading into New York Harbor.