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02-17-04: As gas altered, price rises locally


Spring cleaning at oil refineries and fires at several plants in Illinois and Indiana have contributed to the spike in gasoline prices locally, officials say.
The average price per gallon of regular gasoline in the Grand Lake St. Marys area is $1.63, following a random survey of posted prices at 18 area stations. The highest price spotted was $1.69 at Marathon in New Bremen; the lowest was a tie within the village of St. Henry — Dave’s Market BP and Hemmelgarn Marathon both posted $1.59 early this morning.
Statewide average prices per gallon this morning were $1.67 per gallon, according to AAA’s fuel gauge report. National averages hovered slightly lower at $1.64.
Terry Fleming of the Ohio Petroleum Counsel in Columbus said prices actually started to decline in the Columbus area the last few days as prices rose in Mercer and Auglaize counties. Regular gasoline rose to $1.72 per gallon in the state’s capital before falling Monday to about $1.67, he said.
“At the end of January, refineries get ready to change over to different types of fuels,” Fleming explained, adding clean air regulations mandate different fuel for different seasons.
The changeover combined with the necessary safety checks causes a slow in production, he said. Fires at refineries in Illinois and Indiana and a problem with another oil refinery in Kentucky also have slowed the supply tremendously since January, while cold weather across the country has increased the demand for heating oil, he said.
“OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) once again decided to limit production worldwide. The speculation always drives up prices a bit,” although the price per barrel of crude oil has not risen for some time and remains at about $34, he said.
OPEC plans to cut oil production by 1 million barrels a day beginning April 1, the Associated Press (AP) reported Monday.
Although the AP reported gasoline prices climbing 17 cents since late December, the local average price is up only 4 cents since mid-January and down 12 cents since August 2003.
Fleming said he’d like to remind the public that gasoline prices are actually only about $1.20 per gallon — federal and state taxes account for an additional 43 cents per gallon, he said.
“When we say we’re not making much money on gasoline, we’re not lying. People just get mad when it goes up a little because they know it’s something they have to have,” Fleming said.
Nearly three years of random gasoline price checks by The Daily Standard show St. Henry residents consistently see lower prices in their village than others in the area. All four stations in the village were under the area average of $1.63, with Dave’s Market and Hemmelgarn Marathon posting the lowest price, $1.59, and Shell Food Mart and the Corner Station selling for $1.61.


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