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Tax Break's End, Storm Make Florida Gasoline Scarce

PALM BEACH -- Florida motorists revving up for the Labor Day weekend might find themselves facing a gasoline shortage on top of a possible hit from Hurricane Frances, reported the Palm Beach Post.

"We have another crisis," said Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association in Tallahassee. "No captain is going to take a tanker load of gasoline and head to Fort Lauderdale not knowing where the storm is going to be when he arrives."

The local region gets much of its gas from the Port Everglades terminal in Fort Lauderdale. Gasoline companies already were allocating gasoline Tuesday, they said.

Jerry Donnini, president of Lake Park-based Donnini Enterprises, which owns 22 stations in Palm Beach County, said the allocation already is starting to be felt at his businesses. "I have a couple of stores that have been waiting since (Monday) to get fuel," Donnini said.

Tuesday's end to a month-long holiday on the 8-cent state tax on gas is adding to the problem.

"It's a double whammy," Donnini said. "People are filling up because the 8-cent tax goes back on (Tuesday). Between that and the storm threat, there is a big run on fuel."

In addition to paying more for gas because of the tax reinstatement, there are the usual price hikes that are imposed during the Labor Day weekend.

"With the eight cents tax plus whatever else is added on to that, it's conceivable consumers could see an increase at the pump of 10 to 12 cents per gallon," said Gregg Laskoski, managing director of public and government relations for the AAA Auto Club South in Tampa.

Gasoline retailers must continue to sell all the gasoline they purchased up until midnight Tuesday at the 8-cent discount.

"Business is definitely up at least 20 percent yesterday and today," said Dennis Rifenberg, manager at a local Sunoco station. "Everybody is realizing they can save the eight cents. I figure I have enough regular to last for two days and enough premium to last for four."
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