WASHINGTON – President Bush warned on Monday that people will face a "pinch" because of Hurricane Ike's disruption of energy production, as consumers already grappling with the high price of gasoline have already seen costs soar since the storm made landfall.
Bush said the storm's toll on refineries and pipelines is creating "an upward pressure on price" for people at the gas pump.
"There's going to a pinch," Bush said after a briefing on hurricane recovery efforts. "I wish it wasn't the case, but it is."
The president also said, though, that people should not be subjected to price gauging. The federal government is working with state leaders to monitior whether consumers are being charged unfairly high prices during the disruption in the energy supply.
Bush encouraged people to report their complaints to the federal government if they think they price gauging is taking place.
The president plans to visit Texas Tuesday to inspect the damage and talk to emergency officials. He said the damage to infrastructure was extensive, but still not as bad as some had predicted on the energy sector.
"We're looking forward to hearing from the local folks," Bush said ahead of his trip. "I'm confident that there will be people who are very frustrated because their lives have been severely affected by this storm. My message will be that we hear you."
The eye of the hurricane missed the center of Houston, as well as the largest concentrations of oil and gas refineries.
Still, retail gasoline prices have jumped based on Ike's landfall in the region, which accounts for about one-fifth of U.S. petroleum refining capacity. Refineries, even if they were not damaged, may remain shuttered for days, some because of power outages.