Gasoline situation increasingly dire in days after Sandy

Gas pump line
A line forms at a gas pump as people wait to fill up cans at a gas station Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, as many are left without power following Superstorm Sandy, in Toms River, N.J.
AP Photo/Julio Cortez

(CBS News) Commuters all over the New York area are still finding it very hard to find gasoline, as evidenced by long lines and angry drivers at the few stations that are open.

People all over the New Jersey shore are looking for gas and CBS New found one of the few stations still open in Manahawkin, N.J. But the secret is now out with people traveling 30, 40 and even 50 miles because they're finding it very difficult to fill up.

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Gas is being rationed in parts of New York and New Jersey. The pumps are running on empty -- and so is patience. One man in Queens, N.Y., was charged with waving a gun at another driver in a gas line. At a station in New Jersey, frustration nearly became a fist fight. The police were called in to literally keep anxious drivers in line as they try to cut each other off.

According to the motor club AAA, 60 percent of the gas stations in New Jersey and 70 percent on New York's Long Island are now closed.

There is no fuel shortage, but there is a shortage of electricity. Without power, there's no way to get the gas into your tank, and some stations are shut down entirely. John Hofmeister, founder and chief executive officer of Citizens for Affordable Energy, is the former president of Shell Oil. He explained, "In order to pump the gas, you need electricity. In order to run the cash register or to run the credit card system from the pump to the credit card company, you need electricity."

Hofmeister says electricity issues are also squeezing the delivery for fuel to stations that are open. In the region, 13 of the 34 fuel terminals are without power. Hofmeister said, "So if you don't have electricity at the depots, which fill the delivery trucks -- or if you don't have electricity at a retail station, then you really can't sell gasoline to the public."

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Jimmy and Barbara Dwyer drove 30 miles to find gas in Manahawkin, N.J., to run their generator at home.

Asked how much of a lifeline gasoline is now, Barbara Dwyer said, "When you have no power -- and it's getting really cold now -- so you need power. You have no lights, we have no heat."

That desperation is why there is so much panic buying at the pump. One fuel buyer said, "This is crazy, it's like post-apocalyptic scenarios, you know with this gas. It's as important as food and water to people. It's a dogfight out here."

For Ben Tracy's full report, watch the video above.