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State’s falling gas prices buck trend

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

California drivers got a bit of relief at the pump, but nationwide the average gasoline price edged higher in the last week, the Energy Department said Monday.

California’s average price for a gallon of self-serve gasoline fell 4.1 cents to $3.107 in the week ended Monday. That was 57 cents higher than at this time last year.

The cost for U.S. drivers to fill up at the pump increased, though slightly, for the first time in four weeks, the government said Monday. The national average rose 0.1 cent to $2.978 a gallon, 79 cents more than a year earlier, according to the Energy Department’s weekly survey of service stations.

Separately, 45% of U.S. consumers said high gasoline prices have affected their spending more than rising food costs, the flagging economy or the national mortgage and lending crisis, according to a survey by the National Assn. of Convenience Stores.

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The tipping point for the average consumer to cut back on gasoline use is $3.71 a gallon, the survey of 1,215 Americans found.

“If gasoline prices get to $3.71, that is the point at which, on average, consumers said they would change,” association spokesman Geoff Lenard said.

Still, current gasoline prices have already prompted 13% of those surveyed to cut back on driving. Another 50% said they would cut back on driving when gasoline prices hit $3.25.

The latest Energy Department sampling of gasoline prices comes as crude oil costs have crept back up to $90 a barrel, after falling sharply from the record $100.09 set in early January. Among regions surveyed, prices rose in the Midwest, up 4 cents to $2.962 a gallon, and in the Rocky Mountain states, up 2.7 cents to $2.941.

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Gas was most expensive on the West Coast, though it declined 3.1 cents to an average of $3.055 a gallon. Among major cities, San Francisco had the highest average gasoline price at $3.223, down 3 cents.

The Gulf Coast states had the best regional bargain at the pump, an average of $2.872 a gallon, down 0.3 cent. Houston had the cheapest price at $2.836 a gallon, down 1.7 cents.


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