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01-16-04: Local gas prices soar


There’s good news and there’s bad news at the pump these days.
First, for the good news: The price per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline locally is 16 cents lower than it was five months ago.
The bad news: Gasoline is about 20 cents per gallon higher right now than it was just last month.
A random check this morning of 11 area gasoline stations showed average prices hovering at $1.59, equal to the current statewide average.
The highest price was $1.67, found at both Shell in Fort Recovery and Marathon in Coldwater. The lowest was also a tie at $1.52 per gallon at Hemmelgarn Marathon and Niekamp Farm & Flea Market, both St. Henry.
The average price per gallon in Ohio increased 21 cents in the last month, the AAA Ohio Auto Club said. On this date a year ago, a gallon of gas cost $1.45 across the state, according to statistics tracked by AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.
The sharp increase in one month is blamed on high crude-oil prices and a cold winter in many parts of the country.
The Ohio Petroleum Council said the main culprit was the price of crude oil. It briefly topped $35 a barrel earlier this week for the first time since March 2003, when the war in Iraq began.
‘‘People don’t want to believe it’s that simple, but it is,’’ said Terry Fleming, the council’s executive director.
U.S. oil inventories, which already were at their lowest since 1975, dropped by 5 million barrels last week to 264 million barrels, the government said. Imports have declined from about 10.5 million barrels a day in the fall to 9.5 million.
Also, refineries are making more home-heating fuels than usual because of cold-weather spells in the Northeast and elsewhere, Fleming said. That means less oil available for gasoline, helping to drive up prices.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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