Fluctuating crude prices may force comsumers to really pay at the pump

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Fluctuating crude prices may force comsumers to really pay at the pump Filed: 02/16/2001

From staff and wire reports

Gasoline prices in Bakersfield climbed about a nickel a gallon between January and February, according to the latest survey from the AAA Motor Club of Southern California.

The self-serve price of a gallon in Bakersfield was $1.70 in February, up from $1.65 the previous month.

The statewide average was $1.66, compared to a national average of $1.49.

The Bay area had the highest average prices in the most recent survey: $1.84 in both San Francisco and San Mateo. The lowest prices in Northern California were found in Fresno, $1.53, and Chico and Marysville, both $1.56.

California and Nevada tied for the third most expensive gasoline in the country. Only Hawaii, at $1.98, and Alaska, at $1.70, had higher prices. Cheapest gas: Georgia, $1.37.

What's ahead?

Higher pump prices, if crude oil prices are any indication.

"You can't fine-tune oil prices," said Alan Kovski, managing editor of Energy Business Watch. "It's difficult for OPEC to get the crude prices exactly where they want, so they are trying for a midrange of around $30 per barrel.

"They know that high prices hurt customers and economies, but they are still worried about slumping prices."

The U.S. imports nearly 60 percent of its oil today, much of it from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries member nations. That percentage may go up to 75 percent in the next 10 years, according to Alex Farrell, a research engineer at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

However, crude futures prices weakened Thursday, pressured by growing expectations that OPEC won't cut its production quota when it meets in March.

OPEC President Chakib Khelil said late Wednesday that he doesn't expect the organization to further cut production when its members meet in Vienna in March.

The cartel's 1.5 million-barrel output cut, which began Feb. 1, is having the desired effect of stabilizing crude prices, Khelil said.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 16, 2001

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