Gray Market Forms as Fuel Shortages Continue in Northeast
Social media is picking up where more official sources for fuel are leaving off by necessity, resulting in a gray market that is seeing residents of hard hit New York and New Jersey paying up to $100 for five gallons of gasoline.
While complaints of price gouging are greatly centered on gas, they also extend to items like matches, batteries, food, generators, and even water. Most items are being offered by unscrupulous citizens on those popular online platforms, requesting everything from high prices to sexual favors in return for the goods. (Read More: Gas Prices Keep Falling, Survey Shows)
The office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced earlier this week that it would be investigating complaints of price gouging in the days following Hurricane Sandy’s landfall, complaints that point to both unethical gas station owners and those using Craigslist, Twitter and Facebook to make a quick profit from people who remain desperate for life-saving supplies.
Profiteering during a state of emergency is prohibited by American business law, making it effectively illegal to arbitrarily increase the cost of any essential item during “natural disasters or other events that disrupt the market.”
In the meantime, lines of customers attempting to purchase gas at stations throughout New York and New Jersey have shortened greatly after a gridlocked start to the process last week, but they remain ever-present at locations that have fuel to offer. Even while most of the major refineries that supply the region with gasoline have reopened, 10 remained closed due to the need for further reconstruction, including two that currently account for more than 25 percent of the capacity needed to keep New York and New Jersey well-stocked is fuel. (Read more: Why Sandy’s Impact Will Differ From Katrina)
Officials hope that the illegal gray market will be crippled when a barge carrying more than 17 million gallons of biofuel docks and delivers its cargo in New Jersey on Thursday, an event that will be able to happen only with the temporary easement of regulations by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).