Sign outside a BP gas station in Chicago
Sign outside a BP gas station in Chicago - 
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SCOTT JAGOW: Later this morning, we'll get some numbers from the government on how much oil the country has at the moment. This could help us gauge the impact of BP's oil field shut down in Alaska. Americans are being warned this could drive up the price of gasoline even further. But is this a real threat — or an imagined one? More now from Marketplace's Jeff Tyler.

JEFF TYLER: The average price for a gallon of gas in the US is approaching new record highs.

But energy economist Philip Verleger says, it's a lot of hysteria. There's no shortage of supply.

PHILIP VERLEGER: "There is no reason for the price of oil to go up significantly right now because inventories are high, and because the refiners in California can cover the situation pretty easily."

California refineries are among the world's most sophisticated, able to process the most challenging kinds of crude, supplies of which are readily available.

The only thing for consumers to fear, says Verleger, is the instinct to hoard.

VERLEGER:"I can see a situation where California consumers rush to the filling station today to buy, and essentially drain the system, and create the problem."

The real problem, says Verleger, the US consumes too much oil.

He says we desperately needs a conservation program and better mileage standards.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

SCOTT JAGOW: That oil field shutdown did drive up the price of oil, and down the price of stocks.

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace