Gas prices didn't rise, but everybody's fears did.
Even if Rita had been as devastating as predicted, gas prices would not likely have risen any higher than they had during the short-lived shortage scare following Hurricane Katrina, as refineries shut down by Katrina have already started coming back in production.
Moreover, reports of gas stations raising prices to $2 and even $2.50 a litre turned out to have been generated by one Canadian Press report about one unnamed gas station in one city raising prices, accrording to Blue Maple Leaf.
Blue Maple Leaf suggests that CP had an ideological interest in promoting the panic:
Maybe the answer lies in the ideology of the left and the liberal/socialist agenda they are hell bent on advancing. Global warming is an invention of the left used to create hysteria and advance the liberal/socialist agenda of raising taxes in the name of saving the planet.
The roadmap of the global warming lie is easily traceable, starting with the notion that factories and people with cars cause pollution and are evil, because they cause global warming. Gas companies are evil, because they get rich polluting the Earth and causing global warming. Gas stations are evil, because they are like the drug dealers of the oil companies. Conservatives are evil, because they want to make it easier for oil companies to get rich while oil companies destroy the planet. Alberta is the most evil, because they are the headquarters for rich oil companies and worse, they are a province run by Conservatives that are all unfairly getting rich from drilling oil, destroying the planet, causing global warming and they won’t share their wealth with the rest of Canada.
While this may be an accurate reflection of the mindset at CP, and the Canadian media in general, CP probably didn't set out deliberately to create this panic.
Yet had its editorial staff not been blinkered by its own prejudices, it would have tried to verify the report before sending it to the wires. Phone calls to the gas stations in Chatham, or to the regional distributors, could have gotten them that day's prices.
CP's irresponsibility fortunately only led to long lineups and empty tanks at gas stations. I shudder to think what CP might have done with a rumour where lives where at stake.