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Gas becomes hot commodity for N.J. businesses, post-Sandy

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With lines at gas pumps growing increasingly longer in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, businesses in the state are frugally doling out their gas supplies and looking for new tankers to keep their employees commuting to work.

Philip Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said companies of all sizes "tried to buy as much gas as possible for themselves and their employees before the storm hit."

"Any business that needs oil or fuel to operate has suppliers, and I'm sure they were all on the phone asking if there was anything they could do to top them off and get full tanks of gas before it wouldn't be possible for them to do it — like it is right now for many people," Kirschner said. "A lot of what's going on now was set up in advance, especially with companies having people who would never consider carpooling doing it, thinking there's no sense in having two cars navigating roads and using up their precious gas supply."

The Star-Ledger reported Sunday that several New Jersey businesses, including AT&T, have purchased tankers of fuel for their workers to commute.

An AT&T spokeswoman told NJBIZ the company bought several tankers before the storm hit, not only to restore its wireless network with the use of generators, but also to "provide to our employees in hard-hit areas gas for purchase" as part of a national disaster recovery plan.

Kirschner said he doesn't know of any businesses aside from AT&T currently buying tankers of gas to distribute to their workers.

For companies that didn't plan ahead or already emptied their backup supplies, Kirschner said "there's only so much gas to go around now," and "filling up 10 1-gallon containers at a pump is not enough for even a small business' employees."

"We're all looking to purchase fuel in large quantities … but we're all at the mercy of the fuel companies," Kirschner said.

On a conference call today with the state's business organizations, Michael Van Wagner, executive director of the New Jersey Business Action Center, said "we don't have a magic wand with power companies or gas suppliers … but if you're running into something and you're at your wit's end, call us and we will do our best to help — though the sheer volume has made that difficult."

Requests for information from the New Jersey Department of Transportation on fuel supply accommodation for businesses were not immediately returned.

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