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Summer Gas Price Sticker Shock Expected

Some Parts Of Country Could See Price Of $2.50 Per Gallon

MINNEAPOLIS, 2:48 p.m. EST March 8, 2001 -- After drivers in most parts of America seem to have gotten used to elevated gas prices during the last year, there are reports that some jaw-dropping, gas-pump sticker shock could arrive in parts of the country this summer.

An industry consulting group said earlier this month that there are some potential "hot spots" for price spikes this summer, including in and around Chicago, across much of the northeast, Atlanta, St. Louis and Birmingham, Ala.

Prices could surge as high as $2.50 a gallon in regions that require reformulated gasoline, a retail pricing analyst for the industry consulting group OPIS Energy told USA Today.

"Get rid of your SUVs while you can," Fred Rozell told the newspaper.

OPIS says one Texas refiner told its group that he foresees a confluence of events that will shrink Gulf Coast supplies just as demand rises for the summer driving and travel season.

Last summer, when gas prices topped $2 per gallon in the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor, the Federal Trade Commission officially investigated the cause of soaring gas prices in parts of the Midwest.

Prices were so high last summer that, in June, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson proposed rolling back the 18.4-cent-per-gallon federal gas tax to give consumers relief, and suspend it completely if the price rose to $2 per gallon.

Around that same time, President Clinton feared that the high price of crude oil could slow the economy.

Less than a month after that flurry of regulatory activity, the Midwest went from being a high-cost to a low-cost region for gas prices.

At the end of last summer, a national survey taken at the end of September and early October found that the national average price of a gallon of gas was $1.58.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a gallon of self-serve unleaded gasoline stood at $1.72, and the price was $1.95 per gallon in San Francisco.

Heightening the problem in California is the ongoing electricity crunch and the skyrocketing cost of power. Refineries in the state warn that the price of gas will rise as a result

-- Martin Thompson (, March 09, 2001

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