- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

Gasoline prices in the Washington area dropped during the weekend to as low as $2.67 per gallon at some area stations for the first time since August.

Station owners expressed relief that the price is falling from record highs of $3.38 per gallon in the District recorded by AAA Mid-Atlantic on Sept. 7.

The price of regular fuel at a Shell station on Baltimore Avenue in College Park fell 12 cents over the weekend to $2.79. Manager Rollakanti Moses is “absolutely” relieved the price has retreated.

“When the gas goes up, the credit card fee goes up and people were using credit cards more because gas prices were high,” he said.

Credit card companies charge a percentage — about 1.5 percent — of the purchase price to the retailer to process the purchase.

The average price of regular fuel in the District fell 2 cents from Friday to $2.96 yesterday, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic’s daily reports.

Despite prices falling during the weekend, D.C. motorists are still paying the second-highest fuel costs in the country after Hawaii, where the average cost was $3.52 yesterday.

In the Washington area, the average price is $2.85, still 10 cents above what drivers are paying in Virginia, said John Townsend, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. Maryland drivers are paying an average of $2.83 per gallon.

“Prices have decreased and that’s always encouraging, but it’s still not satisfactory,” Mr. Townsend said. “What you’re looking at is in the metro area, motorists are paying 10 cents above what most of our contemporaries across the country are paying.”

Nationwide, the average price of gasoline fell 12 cents to $2.73 per gallon yesterday, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As fuel costs begin to slide, Tropical Storm Wilma lurks south of the Cayman Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, threatening to turn toward the Gulf Coast region.

If the storm is forecast to reach the Gulf, oil refineries in the area will be closed, as they were during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Even if the refineries aren’t damaged in the storm, the period of time the rigs are shut down tightens gas supplies, which makes pump prices spike.

“Every shutdown causes the prices to go up,” Mr. Townsend said. “We’ve seen that reality has come true with a vengeance this year.”

Light, sweet crude oil prices jumped $1.73 yesterday to close at $64.36 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on concerns about Wilma threatening gasoline production in the Gulf of Mexico, which is already 66 percent below normal because of the hurricanes.

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