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Gas Shortage Possible

Before Californians can even relish the luxury of gas prices lowered from record highs, a new report is warning them that a gas crisis could hit the area as early as next spring if consumers continue to guzzle up gasoline at their current rate.

According to the report released this week, "Over a Barrel: How to Avoid California's Second Energy Crisis'' by the Union of Concerned Scientists in Berkeley and the Surface Transportation Policy Project in San Francisco, California will likely face shortages and price shocks as soon as next spring as the demand for gas surpasses supply.

California Policy Coordinator and co-author of the report Julia Levin, said, "We're going to face a crisis no mater what, and the only factor is timing, unless we reduce demand.''

Levin said that after the use of the gas additive MTBE is phased out by 2002, even the governor has predicted an increase of at least 50 cents in gas prices.

She added that refineries are reaching their capacity, and there is going to be a shortfall. The system will be "ripe for manipulation,'' she said.

In addition, co-author of the report Patricia Monahan, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said, "If current trends continue, California gasoline use will increase 43 percent by 2020."

Californians are driving more and farther than ever, according to the report. The amount of miles traveled by Californians increased by 100 percent from 1970 to 1990, even though the population only grew 60 percent. In the future, the report estimates that driving will increase by another 55 percent.

Also, the study points out that less efficient vehicles have intensified California's demand for gas. In particular, vehicles like SUVs and light trucks, which have lower fuel efficiency requirements, make up 11 percent of the state's total gas usage and have burdened California with an extra $2.4 billion in fuel costs.

Source: KTVU/Fox2 and Bay City News

-- Martin Thompson (, July 30, 2001

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