How the Gas Crisis Is Affecting New Yorkers

Gas Shortages, Long Lines Adding to Storm's Misery
Photo by Patti Domm for CNBC

In a post-Sandy New York, it's not unusual to see lines for gas stretching upwards of five city blocks.

The lack of available gas in Sandy-affected areas is situational and will hopefully be alleviated when power is returned and roads are cleared. Until then, people need fuel to power their cars and generators and they're having trouble finding it.

Lily Wong of Brooklyn, NY waited until midnight to head to the pump in hopes that the line would be shorter. Instead she found a line that snaked around multiple streets.

"We were there till after two in the morning," Wong tells the Daily Ticker. "People were angry and getting out of their cars to walk around. It was total chaos, cars were lining up in all different directions and people were unintentionally skipping the line because they couldn't tell where it started."

By the time Wong made it to the front of the line, the station was out of gas. She had waiting for nothing.

While commuters are having a hard time filling up, the gas shortage has a bigger impact on those who drive for a living.

The yellow taxicab is synonymous with New York City but very few of them have been on the road this week.

Mohammed Ali, a NYC cab driver, says that this is because it's so hard to find fuel.

"If we can't find gas, we have to shut down," he explains. "There is no gas in the city and no gas in Queens."

A driving shift is typically 10 hours. When a driver must wait three hours for gas, it takes a large chunk out of his or her potential earnings. If a driver can't find fuel and doesn't work, he or she is still required to pay a daily rate of $150 for the taxi on top of lost revenue.

According to Allan Fromberg of the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, the number of cabs on the road is down 33% this week.

Those who operate gas stations are also struggling. If a station is without gas for just one week, it could lose nearly 2% of its yearly revenue.

Jeff Lenard of the National Association of Convenience Stores says gas stations make up 4.5% of the total U.S. economy and that 20% of stations are located in the areas affected by Sandy. This lack of gas has the potential to significantly damage U.S. GDP, he adds.

Gas station owners aren't purchasing extra fuel because owners would have to pay premium prices for it. Emergency price gouging laws have prohibited owners from forwarding the extra cost onto their customers. Lenard accuses anti-price gouging politicians like NJ Governor Chris Christie of demonizing gas station owners for their own political gain.

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