Southeast Gas Shortage Squeezes Small Retailers

WOODSTOCK, Ga. (AP) - With drivers across the Southeastern United States scrambling to fill their tanks, independent stations are feeling the pinch.

The independents make little, if any, money selling gas. They rely on gas sales to lure customers who also buy snacks, soda and other incidentals.

But these days, pushing soda and beef jerky is harder than usual. At least one analyst says major oil companies are supplying their branded stations and cutting off independent retailers.

Experts say it could be weeks before the region again has a steady supply of gas.

Major oil companies own fewer than 5 percent of gas stations. Most are owned by small retailers.

Stations pay tens of thousands of dollars for each shipment before they see a cent. Eventually, many make only a few cents on a gallon of gas, a margin that can disappear when credit card fees are added in.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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