The AAA 2012 Labor Day Holiday Travel Forecast projects an increase of 2.9 percent over the 32.1 million Americans traveling this time last year. More than 900,000 Georgians are expected to join the approximately 33 million people traveling across the nation between today and Monday. Georgia’s travel projections track that of the nation’s, also expected to increase 2.9 percent with the majority of those travelers, more than 790,000 to travel by motor vehicle.
“Consumer sentiment is up from last year, so we do think that has factored in,” said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman. “But also, we tend to see pretty good travel numbers for Labor Day. There are a lot of people who are unable to travel at Memorial Day or some of the other bigger summer holidays. So Labor Day is not only a holiday weekend, but it’s also the unofficial end to the summer travel season so there’s a lot of people trying to get that last-minute vacation in before fall happens.”
With Hurricane Isaac continuing to bring rain and foul weather to the Gulf Coast, evacuation procedures taking place earlier this week will likely affect oil production into the holiday weekend.
“Personnel have been evacuated from a total of 503 production platforms, equivalent to 84.4 percent of the 596 manned platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Production platforms are the structures located offshore from which oil and natural gas are produced. Unlike drilling rigs, which typically move from location to location, production facilities remain in the same location throughout a project’s duration,” stated the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement on Tuesday. “Personnel have been evacuated from 49 rigs, equivalent to 64.47 percent of the 76 rigs currently operating in the Gulf. Rigs can include several types of self-contained offshore drilling facilities including jackup rigs, submersibles and semisubmersibles.
“As part of the evacuation process, personnel activate the applicable shut-in procedure, which can frequently be accomplished from a remote location. This involves closing the sub-surface safety valves located below the surface of the ocean floor to prevent the release of oil or gas. ... From operator reports, it is estimated that approximately 93.28 percent of the current daily oil production in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut-in. It is also estimated that approximately 66.7 percent of the current daily natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico has been shut-in.”
While holiday demand and severe weather are working to increase gas prices at the pump, those factors are met with the pre-existing concern of drought conditions across much of the country. Although much needed rain will arrive for many drought-stricken states this week as a result of Hurricane Isaac, the damage to corn crops is already done — just another factor leading to higher consumer costs.
“Droughts have relatively well-understood impacts on food crops and markets. But droughts can also affect energy markets. A significant amount of corn production is used to produce ethanol, which makes up about 10 percent of the motor gasoline pool by volume and provides 6 percent to 7 percent of the gasoline's energy content,” stated the U.S. Energy Information Administration in a Tuesday press release. “Drastically reduced rainfall and triple-digit temperatures throughout much of the nation have damaged corn and other crops, which will have significant impacts on supplies and prices for animal feed, livestock, meat and dairy products, and processed grain products, including ethanol.”
Every Monday, the EIA releases national and regional gasoline prices. The national average price of regular unleaded gas earlier this week was $3.78 a gallon. According to www.gasbuddy.com, the cheapest gas in Cartersville as of press time Wednesday was $3.65 a gallon found at three gas stations on Burnt Hickory Road. Prices in Cartersville increased from there to $3.99 at several stations across town.
When gas prices skyrocket, consumers are often quick to cry foul, but the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection reminds motorists that gasoline prices are still, in part, set by product supply and consumer demand.
“One of the pillars of our society is the free-market economy. The market controls prices on the basis of supply and demand, local competition and other factors. Please be aware that Georgia’s price-control laws (O.C.G.A. Sections 10-1-393.4 and 10-1-438) go into effect only after a state of emergency has been declared by an executive order of the Governor (for example, immediately following a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005). Without the imposition of a declared state of emergency, high prices alone do not meet the law’s definition of price gouging,” said the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection website.