Bush: Ike put 'pinch' on consumers

WASHINGTON Bush said the hurricane's toll on refineries and pipelines is creating"an upward pressure on price" for people at the gas pump.

"There's going to be 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 gouging. The federal government is working with state leaders to monitor whether consumers are being charged unfairly high prices during the disruption in the energy supply.

On Monday, a gallon of regular rose half a penny overnight to a national average of $3.842 - up 16.7 cents from Friday, according to auto club AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express.

Since the storm, prices have jumped above $5 per gallon in parts of the country, with huge disparities within some states and even some neighborhoods.

Bush encouraged people to report their complaints to the federal government if they think they price gouging 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 there will be people that are very frustrated because their lives have been severely affected by this storm. My message will be that we hear you, and we'll work as hard and fast as we can to help you get your lives back up to normal."

Ike came ashore early Saturday at Galveston as a strong Category 2 with 110 mph winds. The eye missed the center of Houston, as well as the largest concentrations of oil and gas refineries but left many without homes or power.

Refineries, even if they were not damaged, may remain shuttered for days, some because of power outages.

U.S. officials said Sunday that Ike destroyed at least 10 oil and gas platforms and damaged pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico.

But that represents only a small portion of the 3,800 production platforms in the Gulf and pales in comparison to the catastrophic damage to energy infrastructure doled out by hurricanes Katrina and Rita three years ago.

Bush said two major pipelines are up and running, but production won't be as expected until the refineries are going "full blast" again.

The president's travel marks his third hurricane-related trip in two weeks. He has been to Texas already, and to Louisiana as well.

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