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Gasoline pump prices in Utah jump 8 cents from last month

But Sept. 11 attack had nothing to do with rise, AAA says

SHARE Gasoline pump prices in Utah jump 8 cents from last month

Gasoline prices in Utah reversed course and moved upward in the latest survey by AAA Utah released Tuesday.

A gallon of regular self-serve unleaded averaged $1.53 in the September AAA survey, up eight cents over last month.

Salt Lake area prices rose seven cents to $1.48. Provo saw a nickel increase to $1.47, and Ogden's average price was 12 cents higher at $1.54.

Despite a seven-cent increase over August, Orem had the lowest average price at $1.46, while Moab continued to have the highest fuel prices at $1.66, up four cents over last month.

The national average rose 15 cents to $1.54 but remained unchanged in New York at $1.53, and declined a nickel to $1.58 in Washington, D.C., where terrorist attacks took place Sept. 11.

AAA spokeswoman Rolayne Fairclough cited increases in wholesale prices for the Utah increase, not price gouging, fuel shortages or last week's terrorist attacks

"Historically, turbulence in world markets often causes gas price fluctuations up and down," Fairclough said. "But motorists should realize that the supply, demand and delivery infrastructure of gasoline were not interrupted in last week's attack."

Alan Kovski, an oil industry analyst who is regularly consulted by AAA, said "reasonably priced" gas is available across the nation, and he speculated that the OPEC oil cartel will "probably increase their production in a show of friendship towards the United States if the gasoline environment requires them to do so."

The American Petroleum Institute said fuels appear to be flowing normally to wholesale and retail markets in the wake of the attacks, refinery production remains strong and inventories of gasoline and diesel fuel are adequate to meet demand, which has been declining this month with the end of the traditional summer driving season.

Bob Darbelnet, president of the national AAA organization, credited "decisive action" on the part of the oil industry and the government for stabilizing gas prices but cautioned that similar coordination will be needed until the current crisis has eased.

"Preparations necessary for a response to last week's terrorist attack makes many Americans understandably nervous about future energy supplies and prices," Darbelnet said. "However, last week's coordinated response by OPEC, U.S. oil companies and government agencies shows coordinated action can be extremely effective in calming public worry about this vital commodity."

AAA's Fuel Gauge Report Tuesday showed average U.S. gasoline prices moved up just four-tenths of a cent since the attacks and cited a major refinery outage in the Midwest on Aug. 14 for much of the 14-cent increase since last month.

In addition to OPEC saying it would increase oil output if necessary to protect the world economy, major oil companies held the line, or rolled back wholesale gasoline prices, while warning distributors and retailers to do the same, Darbelnet said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also suspended cleaner burning fuel requirements ahead of schedule to bring more gasoline into the market. The U.S. Department of Energy issued various public statements to help calm fears of fuel shortages, and state governors vigorously tracked reports of price gouging and took legal action in a few cases.

"The combination of these actions made a tremendous difference at the nation's gas pumps, and all involved should be congratulated on a job well done," Darbelnet said.

E-mail: max@desnews.com