News that eight New York state counties have opted out of a program to offer higher-priced clean burning gasoline put a damper on the oil market Friday, but prices recovered near the close.

Light sweet crude oil for February delivery rose 26 cents to $17.35 a barrel.January unleaded gasoline ended 0.09 cent lower at 51.87 cents a gallon. Earlier in the day the contract was off by 0.51 cent.

The reformulated gasoline program is designed to give drivers the option of buying gasoline that pollutes less starting Jan. 1, but it is voluntary and many governments are declining to participate.

The Environmental Protection Agency disclosed Friday it would allow the eight upstate counties to join the list. The counties use about 2.8 million gallons of gas per day.

The news didn't keep the oil market down all day, however. A late burst of buying, coupled with thin pre-holiday volume, helped prices recover.

January heating oil rose 0.07 cent to 48.02 cents a gallon. February natural gas, which often runs counter to oil markets, fell 2.4 cents to $1.571 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, North Sea Brent Blend crude oil for delivery in February settled 3 cents lower at $15.92 per barrel at the International Petroleum Exchange.

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