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Detroit Grapples With Own Energy Crisis

Story Filed: Friday, June 16, 2000 5:55 PM EST

DETROIT (Reuters) - Even with electricity restored across the city following a two-day outage, Detroit grappled with its own energy crisis on Friday with residents fuming over record-high gas prices and filling stations running out of fuel.

Detroit schools and public buildings opened again on Friday after power was turned back on following a two-day blackout caused by the burnout of three electrical lines.

But residents simmered at the gas pumps as the price of regular-grade gasoline soared to as much as $2.40 a gallon, among the highest prices in the United States, partly due to a pipeline break west of the city.

Some filling stations were left dry because of a leak in the underground Wolverine Pipeline, which supplies Detroit with nearly 200,000 barrels of gasoline a day from Chicago.

``Since three days (ago), we've had no gas,'' Mohamed Mackie, 59, owner of Freetown Mobil Mart in downtown Detroit, said while standing in front of his gasoline pumps, which were covered with plastic bags.

Mackie said he usually sells 3,500 to 4,000 gallons of gasoline and countless packs of cigarettes and bottles of soft drinks each day at his station.

``I'm not putting any money in the bank,'' he said.

A local radio station caused a traffic jam for more than two miles when it offered gas at 97.1 cents a gallon on Thursday in Royal Oak, a suburb north of the city. One motorist was arrested on trespassing charges when he cut in the line.

Fuel was set to begin flowing again at a reduced rate in the Wolverine Pipeline, but retailers said it could be weeks before consumers see lower prices.

``There's no light at the end of the tunnel,'' said Sam Simon, Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Oil Co. in Taylor, Michigan, the state's largest independent wholesaler of gasoline.

``You might see a few cents come out of it,'' he said. ``You might see (prices as low as) $1.99, but you're not going to see it lower than that.''

The real culprit is a shortage of cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline to conform with new federal environmental regulations that went into effect this month, he said.

The new regulations caused gas prices to jump 10 cents nationally, according to a study released on Friday by Comerica Bank. But in the Midwest, prices spiked up 35 to 40 cents due to some additional problems caused by blending the reformulated gas with ethanol, an additive used in the region.

The lesson in gasoline economics is not lost on consumers who now pay twice as much for a full tank of gas as they did not too long ago.

``I started driving six years ago, and back then I was paying 85 cents a gallon,'' said 24-year-old Chris Johnson of Detroit. ``I had a car. It broke down two weeks ago. I just went out and bought a bike.''

-- Cave Man (, June 16, 2000


Too many wogs breeding like dogs.

-- A (, June 16, 2000.

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