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Pump prices are sliding back up

Motorists are paying more to fill up tanks despite falling crude oil prices

POSTED: February 14, 2009 12:04 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

A line of gas tankers wait to fill up Friday at the Marathon terminal in Doraville. The price of gasoline has increased in recent weeks even as the cost of crude oil has remained low.

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Gas prices are creeping back up towards $2 per gallon, and unfortunately, there’s nothing consumers can do about it.

Despite the cost of crude oil continuing to decline, the cost of gasoline is going in the opposite direction.

According to the New York Mercantile Exchange, on Feb. 6 a barrel of crude oil was trading for $40.17. This past Friday, the cost was closer to $38.

By comparison, the average cost of regular gasoline in Georgia rose from $1.81 per gallon the first week of February to $1.83 per gallon this past week. The national average is even higher at $1.96 per gallon.

Locally, a gallon of regular fuel costs around $1.82.

Industry officials say that there are several factors that cause gasoline costs to increase even as crude oil prices go down.

"There are lots of reasons why that happens; the value of the dollar is one," said Gregg Laskoski, a representative of the AAA Auto Club South.

"When the Federal Reserve Board lowers interest rates, it weakens the dollar and either drives speculative investments in commodities like crude oil, which raises the price, or gives investors a reason to abandon their investment, which causes the drives the price down dramatically."

Although crude oil prices have been on a downward trend for the past several weeks, the cost of crude oil spiked a bit Friday.

According to a AAA report, the cost of crude oil and gasoline began to move in opposite directions at the beginning of the year when U.S. oil refineries reduced their gasoline output by reducing the amount of crude oil that was being refined, something that is done annually for seasonal maintenance.

In its most recent report, OPEC reported: "The deterioration in the world economy has led to a significant reduction in global oil consumption. The sudden and massive erosion in demand has helped push crude oil inventories up sharply."

The report goes on to say that growing crude oil stocks will continue to affect the stability of the market, which in turn affects how much drivers pay at the gas pump.

Until the crude oil market is stabilized, consumers shouldn’t expect to see gasoline prices go down; unfortunately, consumers can’t do anything to help that process along.

"Consumer have done as much as they can: If people drive more, the demand for gasoline will increase and like with other markets, when the demand increases so does the prices," Laskoski said. "But one of the reasons why crude oil inventories are so high is because the demand for gasoline is so low. Many consumers began cutting back on their gasoline usage when prices began to increase last spring."

"The best thing for consumers to do is to try and maximize the fuel efficiency of their own vehicles."



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