Governor Urges Freeze as Gas Price Rises

Gov. Mike Huckabee late Tuesday asked owners and operators of service stations to "voluntarily institute a freeze on the price of gas."

"I urge the owners and operators of all service stations to be mindful of the extraordinary circumstances and consider the impact reported increases in gasoline prices will have on the people of Arkansas," Huckabee said. "I call upon them to voluntarily institute a freeze on the price of gas. Sharp increases in gas prices aren't in the best interest of the people of Arkansas, who still must get to work and school.

"I also call upon the people of Arkansas to conserve fuel. If there are more reports of excessive price increases, I will ask the attorney general to take the legal measures necessary to prevent price gouging."

The governor's statement comes after reports that gasoline prices are rising and some stations are seeing long lines at the pump.

Wholesaler Don Beam of LaSher Oil Co. in North Little Rock said gas will rise 10-25 cents at midnight.

Increases above that level at the pump are a "panic mode" response to terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., Beam said.

Gas prices have doubled at some stations in northwest Arkansas since planes were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington this morning. Beam said they had reportedly reached as high as $5 a gallon in Oklahoma City, site of the last major terrorist attack in the U.S.

"We haven't raised the price of fuel today," said Beam, who operates 21 Coastal and Fina stations from Sheridan to Searcy. "We're not out to gouge anybody."

Suppliers have already warned wholesalers of increases between 10-25 cents per gallon at midnight tonight, Beam said.

Tyrone Davis, owner of Davis Petroleum Services at 3517 Asher Ave. in Little Rock, said he had received notice of a mid-day price increase, but the size of the increase had not been announced. Precautionary disruption in supply lines may affect the local supply, he said.

Jim White, chairman of the board of Coulson Oil Co. of North Little Rock, which has Shell and Phillips 66 gas stations in central Arkansas, said people shouldn't panic.

White said they would see about a 10-cent increase in gas, but nothing close to $4.

White also said his gas stations will have plenty of gas and won't close.

In Fayetteville, motorists fearing gas price hikes following the ensuing government pandemonium and national media frenzy flocked to fill up their tanks.

Prices at some Fayetteville stations had already leapt from $1.50 per gallon at the start of the morning to $3 per gallon by 3 p.m. Lorna Turner, manager of the Total station at 357 N. College Ave., said "hundreds" of vehicles had descended on her store by mid-afternoon.

Traffic was backed up for three blocks east of the station along Lafayette Avenue toward Old Main on the University of Arkansas campus.

The Total store, owned by Diamond Shamrock Corp. of San Antonio, Texas, typically sells about 5,000 gallons of gas in a 24-hour period. By 2 p.m., Turner said she'd already sold 4,000 gallons.

"We have about 30,000 gallons in the ground usually," Turner said. "We just measured the inches of gas we have left, and there are probably another 11,000 gallons left right now. We certainly haven't seen anything like this. I expect that by the end of the day we'll sell more than 11,000 gallons."

Total had not yet raised its prices from $1.59 for regular unleaded, $1.69 for mid-range gas and $1.79 for super unleaded. But Turner said she was awaiting a call from Shamrock's headquarters.

"We'll just do what we're told," Turner said.

The Rhino Conoco across College Avenue from the Total expected to run out of gas before 5 p.m. today. Scott Haseman, the station owner, said he will have pumped 4,500 gallons of gasoline by that time.

Haseman said he would be out of his 2,400-gallon allotment of regular unleaded shortly after 3 p.m. The small station didn't raise its prices today, continuing to sell regular unleaded for $1.63 per gallon and premium for $1.83. Haseman said he expected a partial shipment tonight, so he would reopen in the morning with gasoline available.

The Fayetteville Police Department was mobilized to direct traffic at a number of gas stations around town.

(Lance Turner contributed to this report.)