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Florida's Fuel Supply Threatened

MIAMI--Gov. Jeb Bush was warned Thursday of "significant" gasoline shortages statewide if Hurricane Rita deals a second severe blow to the Gulf Coast's fuel industry this weekend, The Miami Herald reported.

Even if the storm misses the heart of the nation's oil belt, it has already caused disruptions in fuel supplies. Late Thursday, forecasters jogged Rita's projected path east of Houston.

More than 90 percent of the region's offshore oil production shut down in advance of the storm as companies evacuated workers from hundreds of platforms in the Gulf.

Gasoline futures contracts rose 8.63 cents to $2.14 per gallon in trading Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, though the price of oil dropped 30 cents a barrel to $66.50.

"We in all likelihood are going to have significant shortages of gasoline," Bush told reporters in Tallahassee, according to the Herald . "I would urge people to recognize this, not to hoard, not to top off every tank that they have."

A Herald survey of 90 stations Thursday found an average price of $2.83 a gallon for regular unleaded, a tiny drop from Tuesday's average of $2.84. That's a sharp decline from post-Katrina prices, which peaked in the Sept. 6 survey at $2.99 a gallon. The high prices didn't hurt demand at the pump, as fuel trucks raced to replenish gas stations drained by consumers apparently spooked by talk of a nationwide shortage.

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