Ill. Gas Prices Expected To Soar

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Ill. Gas Prices Expected To Soar

By Kristina Buchthal Associated Press Writer Friday, April 13, 2001; 6:03 PM

Gasoline retailer trade publications are telling their readers to stock up on numeral 2's for their signs.

Not for 2 cents or 20 cents, but for $2.

Illinois' gasoline prices this summer are expected to top $2 per gallon, and maybe $3 per gallon in some areas of the state, according to retailers. Average prices have increased by almost 30 cents in the last 30 days, the Oil Price Information Service said.

"What are we going to do?" said Tom Troe, who paid $1.71 per gallon Friday to fill up his tank at a Clark station in Peoria. "You've got to have gas, so you pay for it."

In Peoria, regular-grade prices have increased in the last two weeks by as much as 40 cents per gallon.

Average per-gallon gas prices Friday in Illinois were highest in Chicago, from $1.71 for regular to $1.89 for premium. They were lowest in the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island area at $1.55 for regular and $1.72 for premium, according to the information service.

Nationally, the average per-gallon price Friday was $1.53 for regular to $1.69 for premium, according to the Oil Price Information Service.

Gasoline retailers say the prices will only get higher as warm weather increases demand and forces refineries to mix more expensive reformulated gasoline, required for summer by federal law.

"We don't see an end in sight," said Paul Torstrick, vice president of Gas City Petroleum Products. "It's going to be a very painful summer for the consumers and the independent station owners in Illinois."

Last summer, gasoline prices skyrocketed, prompting Illinois lawmakers to suspend the state's 5 percent sales tax. For most of the summer, prices lingered just below $2 per gallon.

This year, lawmakers say the state's budget leaves little room for tax breaks.

"We usually don't see this many increases in this short period of time," said Jeff MacDonald, vice president of the Peoria-area MacDonald Shell chain of gas stations. "The price will hit $2 a gallon, definitely. I don't foresee any break."

In Springfield, Easter weekend travelers felt the brunt of a 30-cent jump this week in gas prices. Most blamed gas station owners for the price hike.

"The Easter holiday is here ... and I think they realize, 'Hey people are going to drive,'" said Robert Meredith of Springfield, who paid $31 Friday to fill up his van's tank for a family trip.

But Bill Fleischli, executive vice president of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association, said simple laws of supply and demand are to blame for the gas prices.

"In 2001, the first four months have been the worst we've ever had," Fleischli said. "When prices are high, people think we're making an exorbitant amount of money, which is not true."

He said that if refineries aren't built to replace those that have closed, like the Premcor refinery in Blue Island which shut down in January, the nation's gasoline will become less plentiful and more expensive.

And for Fleischli, who's been watching the state's gas prices increase, ads like the one he saw in Oil Express Magazine are just another bad sign.

"It took a long time to design a sign that would go to three digits, and now they're selling big two's," Fleischli said. "That means the two is going to be up there for a while."

2001 The Associated Press

http://washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A16237-2001Apr13?language=printer

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), April 14, 2001


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