- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

The District had the most expensive gasoline in the nation yesterday morning, but prices began dropping by the end of the day.

A gallon of regular gas cost an average of $3.38 in the District yesterday, up 3 cents from Tuesday and higher than any state average calculated by AAA.

New York state followed closely at $3.34, and Maryland was third at $3.26. Virginia was 15th at $3.12 per gallon.

The average in Mississippi, which faced the brunt of Hurricane Katrina, the catalyst for the latest spike in gas prices, was the cheapest at $2.73.

While most state averages include rural areas, where gas is traditionally cheaper, the District’s average placed second when compared with major metropolitan areas, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The average in Buffalo, N.Y., was higher at $3.44.

New York City’s average was 6 cents less at $3.32, Baltimore’s average was $3.30 and Los Angeles, home to traditionally high gas prices, was $2.99 yesterday morning.

In the Washington area, the average was $3.22, down a penny.

Prices began a slow decline yesterday, with some local stations reporting a drop yesterday morning of 5 to 30 cents.

The price of regular fuel dropped 30 cents overnight to $3.29 at a Shell station on Baltimore Avenue in College Park.

“We are told it’s probably going down in the next week or two, I hope,” said Sam, an auto manager at the station who did not want his last name used. “It’s good for everybody.”

Sam said it is frustrating to constantly change the large sign outside his shop, which until yesterday was on an upward climb.

“But what choice do we have? We still have to eat and drink. It’s becoming tough,” he said.

Motorists are skeptical they’re out of the woods.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Charles, a D.C. resident who did not want his last name used.

“There’s nothing rational to tell us [prices will drop] at this point,” he said as he bought gas at a Lowest Price station on New York Avenue in Northeast, where the price of gas fell 5 cents to $3.19 yesterday. “It’s too enticing for these guys to keep prices high.”

Gasoline futures dropped again yesterday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, but they still are up 72 percent from a year ago.

Yinka Coker, a D.C. cabdriver, took the day’s dip in stride.

“It might go down today and go up tomorrow,” Mr. Coker said. “I’ve seen it go from $2.99 to $3.10 to $3.40 to $3.80 in Maryland.”

Mr. Coker and fellow cabdrivers won’t see substantial relief until prices return to the $2 range, he said as he put $10 worth of gas into his cab at a Shell station on New York Avenue in Northeast yesterday, where regular fuel was $3.31.

“Before, I used to spend $20 a day on gas. Now it’s $45 per day.”

In an attempt to help motorists, D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, Sr., yesterday urged Mayor Anthony A. Williams to issue an executive order exempting D.C. motorists from gasoline taxes.

“Residents of the District of Columbia, who are among the highest-taxed consumers in the nation, deserve this much-needed tax break to offset the escalating cost of fuel,” said Mr. Orange, Ward 5 Democrat and mayoral candidate.

Vincent Morris, the mayor’s spokesman, said Mr. Williams will consider the plan.

“It’s a little risky, because most of the cost would be borne by [the District] but most of the benefit would go to Maryland and Virginia,” Mr. Morris said. “It also could create shortages that could hurt the city.”

Mr. Orange said the proposed moratorium would be in effect through Sept. 30.

On Friday, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue suspended the state’s gasoline tax to relieve some of the pinch.

• Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this report.

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