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Tri-State paying more for gas

November 27, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

By the end of the year, a trip to the gas pump could cost a typical Tri-State area motorist as much as $9 more than just eight months ago.

Last winter, gas prices hit a 10-year low of 90 cents a gallon.

This weekend, as holiday travelers filled their tanks they paid an average price of $1.28 a gallon in Maryland, according to a AAA survey.

Some analysts say the price could reach $1.50 a gallon by the end of the year if the current short supply and high demand continue.

"I've seen those reports and I guess it's not out of the question. Basically, the market started rising and it really hasn't stopped," said Charles Goodie, vice president of AC&T Co. in Hagerstown.

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That difference of 60 cents a gallon would translate into $9 extra to fill up a 15-gallon tank.

"I hope it doesn't come to that. It's just going to kill my bank account," said Andrew Krumpe, 17, of Hagerstown.

Krumpe was filling up his parents' Jeep Cherokee on Friday at a cost of about $20. He normally drives a van that last cost him $25 to fill up.

Pam Deal, 38, of Hagerstown, said the higher prices have forced her to use a lower grade of gas, but she doesn't think her minivan runs as well.

"I'm not too happy. I think someone's getting rich and we're getting poorer," she said.

Others tried to put the problem into perspective.

Steven Fleming said he can remember standing in long lines to pay $1.40 a gallon during the 1970s gas crisis.

"We are kind of fussy. I think you really have to say it's a pretty good deal," said Fleming, who came to Hagerstown from Shippensburg, Pa., to see relatives Friday.

Patti Friend, 41, of Hagerstown, said she has a new appreciation for gas prices after visiting her brother this summer in England, where they routinely pay $3 a gallon.

The steady increase can be explained by simple supply-and-demand economics, said Louie Sheetz, marketing vice president for Sheetz convenience stores.

In March, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and key allies cut production through at least March 2000.

At the same time supplies are smaller, consumption in the United States is as high as it has been in 10 years heading into the high-demand winter heating season, Sheetz said.

"That, unfortunately, drives the price up," he said.

There is really no way to predict what the market will do next, Sheetz said.

Speculation of higher prices has been fueled by steady increases in the cost of crude oil, which hit their highest level since the 1991 Persian Gulf War last week.

"Those SUVs are going to be pretty expensive to run," said John Kilduff, senior vice president of energy risk management for Fimat USA, a New York futures brokerage firm.

High gas prices also could mean higher costs on products ranging from plastic goods to virtually anything that is shipped.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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