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Motorists may see rise in gas prices soon

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You may fork over more money at the gas pump soon now that major oil producers have pledged to slash crude oil production by as much as 2 million barrels per day.

But experts warn that nothing is certain in the changeable world of oil production."I have heard speculation that this will increase crude oil prices $3 to $4 a barrel, which might ultimately increase gasoline by a dime a gallon," said Thomas Brill, an economist with the Utah Office of Energy and Resource Planning.

But oil prices reversed course in London Tuesday as traders showed skepticism over whether petroleum exporters will cut production enough to bolster the battered market.

Oil prices shot up 13 percent in New York Monday on news that some of the biggest players in OPEC, as well as producers in Mexico and Oman, had agreed to production cuts. But crude futures were down 28 cents Tuesday, to $14.76 per barrel, on London's International Petroleum Exchange.

OPEC is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting "soon" to discuss ways of boosting oil prices. Until then, the long-term trend will remain uncertain.

Members of the 11-nation OPEC and some non-OPEC countries, particularly Mexico and Oman, have pledged to cut oil production between 1.1 million and 2 million barrels per day.

Brill said this agreement is significant because it marks the first time a non-OPEC country such as Mexico has joined the OPEC nations in a joint production decrease.

"This weekend's agreement was somewhat unusual since Mexico is not a member of OPEC, and Venezuela (which is a member) has long been producing at a level over its OPEC quota," Brill said.

It's also unclear whether all the countries discussing the issue will actually adhere to the production decrease.

Prior to the agreement, which emerged over the weekend, there were clashes between Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil producer, and Venezuela, which routinely produces more oil than the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries permits.

"There is a real question whether this production agreement will last," Brill said. "We have seen in the past several occasions where OPEC has called on its own member countries to restrain some of their production, and those previous OPEC agreements have failed."

Brill also questions to what extent other large oil-producing nations will cut back on their own production, particularly the United Kingdom and Norway. "If other non-OPEC countries restrain some of their production, this is thought to help reduce overall production," he said.

Changes in the worldwide scene occurred last fall when OPEC upped its production quotas, which allowed its members to release more crude oil onto the world market.

Currently, the worldwide production of oil is about 75 million barrels per day.

Crude oil prices have dropped over the past seven months from approximately $23 a barrel to about $13 a barrel.

Economists credit the reduced energy costs with keeping a lid on inflation in the United States and buffering the country somewhat from Asia's financial woes.

American motorists also have welcomed the cheap gasoline prices at the pumps.

But experts say the easy-on-the-wallet situation is bound to change somewhat when the United States enters the "summer driving season" and Americans take to the road for vacations and holidays, which traditionally signals a rise in gas prices.

Lee Peacock, executive director for the Utah Petroleum Association, said it's hard to say what this latest oil-production situation will do to American pocketbooks.

But he said prices could have gone up anyway due to "the natural ebb and flow of the seasonal demand of the product."

"There are so many factors that go into the pricing of motor fuel," Peacock said.

Utah's oil comes mainly from here - Colorado and Wyoming with some coming from southern Canada. "The price of what local producers can get for their oil certainly is dictated by the world price, but again it's all a matter of supply and demand. As long as there is a constant supply in the Rocky Mountain states, I wouldn't think there would be a dramatic change in local prices," Peacock said.