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Drivers find abundant supply of gas in Ky.

Motorists found gasoline plentiful in Lexington on Sunday despite back-to-back hurricanes that shut down several large refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Nick Khouri, who opened a new Marathon station Thursday on Winchester Road, said there was ample gas.

"Hurricane Ike created some instability in the market because a couple of refineries are closed; that's about it," he said. "A lot of people think because refineries are closed for a few days there is a gas shortage. I don't buy that," he said. "We have plenty of gas."

Several motorists also expressed skepticism that supply shortages ever really threatened. Rod Sergent said it was a "manufactured" scare tactic promulgated by oil companies as a way to raise gas prices.

Fears of shortages and fuel-production disruption resulting from Hurricane Ike damaging oil rigs and refineries along the coast led to a difference in pump prices by more than $1 a gallon in some states.

The price of regular gas jumped as high as $4.99 a gallon in Knoxville, Tenn., over the weekend, up from $3.66 on Friday.

"Gas was $3.69 yesterday in Dayton (Ohio). It's $4 here," said Sergent, who stopped to top off his tank at Thornton's at Winchester Road and Interstate 75. "When one distributor has gas and another one doesn't, the first one knows he can sell his gas for more. I think that's what's happening.

"The fact that the price was going up before this storm even hit is some indication of that," said Sergent, who was heading home to Chattanooga, Tenn., after spending the weekend in Dayton at his parents' 60th wedding anniversary.

However, Robert Calmus, spokesman for Marathon Petroleum, which owns 140 Speedway SuperAmerica stations in Kentucky, said the shortage was very real.

"Because of the damage Hurricane Ike did to refineries along the Gulf Coast, there's been a decrease in refining capacity of 4 million barrels a day," he said.

It will be several days before the extent of damage to the refineries can be assessed, Calmus said.

Dale Nusz, on his way from Michigan to Florida, had encountered no gas shortages. Gas was $3.99 at Speedway on Winchester Road.

"Nope, I've not run into any problems," he said. "If gas companies really think there is going to be a shortage, they should leave the prices where they are, not raise them."

Nusz doubted that an interruption of gas at the pumps was ever a real threat. It's just a way for oil companies "to make more money," he said.