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Gasoline 16¢ up from last month

AAA says prices may have peaked, down 3¢ since 4th

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The worst appears to be over for Utah motorists.

Gas prices remain sky-high, but they seem to be heading down from their late-summer records, according to AAA Utah's latest Fuel Gauge Report.

AAA Utah reported Tuesday that the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded, self-serve gasoline in Utah is now $1.80. That's still a whopping 16 cents higher than it was last month, but it is down 3 cents from the highest recorded price of $1.83 on Sept. 4.

The national average price is $1.69, up 12 cents from a month ago but down 5 cents from the highest national average of $1.74 on Aug. 30.

"Low inventories, blackouts and problems with refineries and pipelines in the United States, post-war sabotage in Iraq, difficulties recovering from the labor strike in Venezuela . . . and reduced production by OPEC all contributed to the drastic rise in gasoline prices last month," said Rolayne Fairclough, AAA Utah spokeswoman, in a prepared statement.

Lower demand after Labor Day and a reduction in the price of a barrel of oil could lead to falling prices in the weeks to come.

"Crude oil prices dropped to close at $28.14 (Monday)," the AAA report said. "This is a drop of around 10 percent from the $32 mark where crude traded for much of the summer. This drop in prices has led OPEC ministers to comment that an increase in production is unlikely."

AAA Utah surveys a limited number of communities across the state in its monthly gasoline price survey, and the resulting figures are averages. Individual service stations sell gas at both higher and lower prices, sometimes even in the same city block.

Of the cities surveyed this month, all experienced price increases for a gallon of regular unleaded, self-serve gasoline.

Ogden, Provo and Vernal saw the largest increases — an amazing 18 cents — to $1.77, $1.78 and $1.82, respectively. Salt Lake City had the next-largest increase of 14 cents, giving an average price of $1.78 per gallon.

St. George motorists are now paying 12 cents more than they did last month, or $1.80 per gallon. Moab had the smallest increase of 7 cents, taking its average to $1.82.

Surrounding states also saw their prices increase in the last month, with Idaho's average up 17 cents to $1.82, Montana's up 6 cents to $1.73, Wyoming up 9 cents at $1.67 and Colorado up 8 cents at $1.68.

Arizona's prices skyrocketed 28 cents to an average of $1.90 per gallon, while Nevada's prices went up 22 cents to $1.92 and California's price jumped 32 cents to $2.09.

E-mail: gkratz@desnews.com