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Uncertainty fueling gas-price hikes

Jackson Bell

Gas prices have been steadily climbing for weeks, leaving consumers,

gas-station owners and even experts perplexed about when prices will

level off and drop.

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“Don’t believe anyone who said they know what the price of gas

will be in three or four weeks, because there are too many factors to

predict it,” said Jeffrey Spring, spokesman for the Automobile Club

of Southern California.

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Past price hikes, he said, have been more predictable because they

generally were caused by just one or two reasons.

But the current rise is a confluence of several factors, including

recent oil strikes in Venezuela halting exports; lower crude oil

imports overall; refineries switching to the more expensive summer

grades; an increase in the amount of oil used to heat homes in the

eastern United States during an abnormally cold winter; and, finally,

speculation about an impending war with Iraq.

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According to the club, the average weekend gas price in the Los

Angeles area was $1.97 per gallon. As of Monday, gas-station prices

ranged from $1.93 for regular and $2.09 for a higher performance

octane at a Mobil in Magnolia Park to $2.03 for regular and $2.25 for

higher performance octane at a Chevron in Media District West.

Sam Amir, a Burbank resident and Acura Integra owner, said the

cost to fill his tank a month ago was $22. Now, he’s paying $30.

“My natural tendency would be to drive less, but I cannot,” he

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said. “I don’t think I can afford to alter my work or leisure

habits.”

Amir also said, over the years, he has found high prices to be

cyclical and expects them to return to normal. But if they don’t, he

said he would consider alternative-fuel cars.

Taline Arsenian, a Glendale resident who drives a Ford Escape,

said she recently bought her sport-utility vehicle and would rather

curb her driving than switch cars.

“Financially, it’s a burden,” she said. “Especially when you hear

on the news that the increase is unnecessary and the gas companies

are taking advantage of us.”

However, Maurice Vanegas, the owner of Galactic Fuel at 2616 N.

Glenoaks Blvd., said wholesale prices have climbed about 5 to 6 cents

a day since he opened Feb. 25, and that he makes hardly any money on

gas. He said he makes most of his profits selling candy, soda and

cigarettes.

His prices as of Monday were $1.98 for regular and $2.08 for the

higher performance octane.

“Unfortunately, but obviously, I have to sell according to what

[the other] gas stations are selling at,” he said. “And tomorrow,

I’ll probably have to raise the price again, or my business won’t

last very long.”


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