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May-01-2007 17:39printcomments

National Average Gasoline Price Closing in on $3

Prices keep going up. Wholesale price increase blamed on consumer demand and lack of refinery capacity.

South Salem, Oregon gas prices last Saturday
South Salem, Oregon gas prices last Saturday
Photo by: Bonnie King

(SALEM) - Wholesale gasoline prices continue to climb, and while the national average price for a gallon of regular, currently $2.97, was not expected to hit $3 this year, it probably will happen within the next few days.

As the national average price rose by ten cents in the past week, Oregon motorists watched gasoline prices skyrocket by more than 15-cents per gallon, pushing the statewide average up to $3.28.

Salem's average of $3.25 is running slightly ahead of the state average. Portland's average cost for a gallon of regular is $3.27, Vancouver, Washington residents are paying a penny more. Drivers in the Eugene/Springfield are are paying $3.31 and Medford/Ashland residents are paying $3.33.

"Late last week, it was reported that the Shell refinery in Anacortes, Washington, and a refinery in California, were experiencing production problems," said AAA Oregon Public Affairs Director Elliott Eki. "Details remain sketchy but the impact of the production stoppage was immediately felt in the Pacific Coast States."

With the Memorial Day holiday a month away, it's still too early to forecast what pump prices will greet motorists. "The question asked this spring was if we'd see the much dreaded $3 per gallon gasoline by June. Now, the question is a more hopeful, 'Will we see $3 per gallon by the 4th of July?'" Eki said.

Much of the pricing surge is blamed on weak fuel inventories. Weekly reports from the U.S. Department of Energy show that refiners are not able to rebuild gasoline inventories due to the constant, heavy consumer demand. If the agency report this week is a disappointing one, it will increase upward price pressure; if it shows healthy fuel inventory growth, prices could stall or even drop.

At $3.28, Oregon's average gasoline price ranks 3rd highest in the nation. California has the highest average price at $3.41 followed by Washington at $3.30. Hawaii's statewide average is $3.20; Nevada's is $3.16 and Idaho's moved up to $3.02. Oklahoma has the lowest statewide average price at $2.80.

The national average diesel price remained steady at $2.92 per gallon in the past week; California's is $3.16; Washington's is $3.06; Idaho's and Nevada's inched up to $3.03. Oregon's average diesel price is $2.95.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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