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Gas Prices Soar About 8 1/2 Cents

March 21, 1999

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) _ Gasoline prices experienced their biggest jump in nearly a decade, rising about 8 1/2 cents per gallon at the pump over the past two weeks as global changes reduced a supply glut, an analyst said Sunday.

The increase was only the second since September and followed a half-cent hike recorded two weeks ago.

The weighted average, including all grades and taxes, was $1.0869 cents per gallon on Friday, up 8.41 cents from two weeks earlier, according to the Lundberg Survey of 10,000 gas stations nationwide.

The sharpest increase, averaging 14 cents, was in the Midwest. The smallest, at a nickel, was in the West, which prices had jumped earlier.

``I can barely make things as it is,″ said Maria Amador, an office manager, as she filled her Plymouth Voyager van at a downtown Los Angeles gas station. ``If gas goes up, I’ll have to decrease my driving.″

Rising crude oil prices were to blame, and the causes for that are complex, involving global politics and local disasters, analyst Trilby Lundberg said from Texas, where she is attending a refiners’ conference.

They include OPEC’s announcement that it plans to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day and the Feb. 23 explosion at a Tosco Corp. oil refinery in Martinez, Calif. that killed four people and sent gasoline buyers chasing alternative supplies.

Other reasons range from disruption of Iraq’s oil pipeline by U.S. air raids to greater demand thanks to an improving world economy, Lundberg said.

The glut that sent prices plunging to a 12-year low also played a role by causing a shakeout among small producers.

``The industry is writhing in pain,″ Lundberg said. ``There are substantial casualties in the oil patch, especially small independents in the U.S.″

Lundberg said the price hike is the largest and fastest jump since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Even so, she noted, prices are only a penny above last year’s and remain nearly 24 cents under the $1.33 figure recorded when the price crash began in September 1997.

At the Simon Express Food Mart and Shell station near downtown Detroit, customers seemed resigned to prices that had risen by about a dime a gallon in the past week.

``It seems like when the suppliers’ price goes up, the prices at the pump go up immediately ... like a curtain fell,″ said Bill Palazzolo, 53, of Detroit. ``And when there’s a downgrade in the price, they let it just drift on down.″

Tom Pettus, 43, of Detroit, conceded that his Dodge Durango SUV was a ``gas guzzler,″ but still felt that oil companies could offer lower prices.

Drivers in the Motor City were over a barrel, he added. ``Detroit, there’s really no mass transit. We just put gas in the car and go.″

Self-service prices nationwide were $1.0284 per gallon for regular, $1.13.39 for mid-grade and $1.2191 for premium.

Full-service prices were $1.4361 for regular, $1.5276 for mid-grade and $1.6013 for premium.

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