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Sign-Maker Says Signs Point To $3/Gallon Gasoline

Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2001 02:23 PM ET By David Bird


NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Are the signs of the times pointing to $3 a gallon gasoline?

The answer appears to be yes, and in four-foot high numerals.

In This Article Symbol Last Change CHV 96.04 -0.52 Index Dow Jones 10898.15 +163.18 NASDAQ 2168.42 +52.18

Chevron Corp. (CHV, news, msgs) is preparing for the inevitability that soaring gasoline prices - already at record highs in some areas - are heading for the $3 level.

Chevron won't comment. But Bob Stanis, a major account executive at Wagner Zip-Change Inc., a Melrose Park, Ill. manufacturer of those large gas-price numerals displayed on the marquees at filling stations, said his company has received inquiries from the San Francisco-based oil major.

"It's sad to say, but true," said Stanis. Chevron's request is the "first we've seen" of calls for a "three-point," or a number three followed by a decimal point, which would form the front portion of the nation's highest-ever gasoline prices.

Wagner Zip-Change Inc. and several other companies around the country report brisk interest in signage to display $2-a-gallon fuel, despite a current national average price of $1.626 for unleaded regular, according to the government's Energy Information Administration. That price compares with $1.42 a year ago and is just shy of the national record high for regular of $1.681 hit last June 19.

A series of refinery mishaps across the country and overall tight inventories are leading oil-industry analysts to predict tight supplies this summer and still higher prices. Gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday traded to their highest-ever level of more than $1.16 a gallon.

In Chevron's backyard, the San Francisco Bay Area pump prices of regular gasoline were at record highs, according to the California branch of the American Automobile Association.

In San Francisco, drivers are shelling out $2.075 for regular gasoline, up from $1.936 a year ago, and $2.246 for the state's required special blend of premium fuel, up from $2.088 last year.

On average, pump prices for regular gasoline in California are at a record $2.058/gallon now, topping the high set last September. A $3/gallon gasoline price would be about double the average price of California gasoline in the summer of 1999.

Tokheim Corp., a major manufacturer of gas pumps, said the infrastructure of the retail industry is ready to handle $3/gallon displays, if that is what it comes to. The industry has gone fully electronic, and the old analog read-out pumps have gone the way of $1 gallon gasoline.

Today's pumps can handle a price of $9.99 a gallon before becoming obsolete, said spokesman Van Negris.

"If gasoline goes to $10 a gallon, there will be a revolution," he joked, and he wasn't referring to potential upheaval in the gas pump industry.

- By David Bird, Dow Jones Newswires, 1-201-938-4423,

-- Martin Thompson (, May 01, 2001

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