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Supply problems in West drive up U.S. gas prices

CAMARILLO, Calif. — Supply problems in California have helped push up the average price of gasoline by 5 cents per gallon over the past two weeks, an analyst says.

The average weighted price for gas, including all grades and taxes, was about $1.75 per gallon Friday, according to the Lundberg Survey of 8,000 stations nationwide. The price is nearing $1.77, the survey's record high of May 18, 2001.

Analyst Trilby Lundberg said the increase of just over a nickel was nearly entirely due to California refineries switching over to corn-based additives from MTBE, an additive that is blamed for polluting drinking water after it leaked from storage tanks.

That change has temporarily cut the state's gas supply by 10 percent and helped drive up prices, Lundberg said.

In some cities, including Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Boston, Dallas and New Orleans, pump prices remained steady or dropped a few cents over the past two weeks, Lundberg said.

The nation's highest price for self-serve regular gasoline was in San Francisco, where drivers were paying $2.10 per gallon. The lowest price was in Atlanta, where a gallon of self-serve regular cost about $1.51, according to the survey.

The national weighted average price of gasoline, including taxes, at self-serve pumps Friday was about $1.72 per gallon for regular, $1.82 for mid-grade and $1.90 for premium.

Gasoline prices are likely to remain high until the international crisis over Iraq is settled, Lundberg said.