- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

Gasoline prices spiked as much as 36 cents overnight at some Washington area gas stations yesterday, while the District’s average cost of regular gas remained at $3.02 — the second-highest price in the country.

Michelle Saghafi expressed dismay when she realized the gas she was pumping cost $3.25 per gallon, 36 cents more than it cost the day before at a Chevron station on Florida Avenue Northeast.

The station was charging $2.89 for a gallon of self-serve regular on Wednesday. Overnight, the cost of gas at the station rose from $2.82 per gallon to $3.20, said an employee who did not want to be named.

“This is usually one of the cheaper stations,” said Ms. Saghafi, a Fairfax resident. “I wish I got gas yesterday.”

The Chevron station was one of the many Washington area gas stations that pulled out the ladders and changed their price signs dramatically yesterday.

A Shell station in Bethesda increased its price 20 cents to $3.29 yesterday. Another Shell station in Falls Church raised its price 25 cents to $3.15.

Shell declined to comment on gas prices at specific stations.

“Gasoline prices are determined by the marketplace and no one can predict what prices may do in any particular market,” Shell spokeswoman Karyn Leonardi-Cattolica said.

The sudden spikes likely reflect similar increases in spot prices for gas from refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, where some refineries are restarting after being shut down by Hurricane Rita, said Michael Burdette, an oil analyst with the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Some Gulf Coast refineries are still closed with damage caused more than a month ago by Hurricane Katrina.

“Because the spot prices on the Gulf jumped very sharply in the last few days, those price increases are being passed up the pipeline to us,” Mr. Burdette said.

The spot price for gasoline from Gulf Coast refineries rose 67 cents Wednesday to $3.445 per gallon, according to Reuters news agency.

Yesterday, it fell 57 cents to $2.87. Last week, it was $2.55.

AAA Mid-Atlantic officials expressed concern yesterday that some stations were lifting gas prices back above $3 a gallon.

According to AAA’s tally, District drivers are paying more than drivers everywhere in the country except Hawaii, where they pay $3.28 at the pump.

“Our belief is that the gas companies and the oil companies were fully cognizant of the fact that consumers don’t have a tolerance for $3 gas,” said John Townsend, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman.

“This may be occurring under the radar screen at a certain brand of station. We hope that the other stations don’t soon follow suit,” he said.

Cabdriver Hassan Abdurraheem noticed the high prices at certain stations around Washington yesterday.

He filled his cab at an Exxon station on New York Avenue Northeast, where the price stayed at $2.99 per gallon yesterday.

“I just keep my eyes open for the lowest price,” he said. “There’s no such thing as filling up at the same place anymore.”

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