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Gas prices on rise

October 14, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Gas prices in the Hagerstown area are threatening to hit a record high, with prices climbing by 20 cents a gallon in one month.

Several customers filling their tanks Wednesday said the news was annoying but not surprising.

The average price of one gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline in the Hagerstown area rose to $2.01 Wednesday, according to figures released by AAA. That average price was followed closely by the statewide prices in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland, all of which were within 5 cents of the city's average.

Wednesday's mark is just 2 cents shy of Hagerstown's record high price, which was set in late May.

"(Hagerstown) is getting hit pretty hard," said AAA spokeswoman Amanda Knittle.

Knittle said the city's average is not only higher than the average for the entire Tri-State membership, but higher than typically more expensive areas such as Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

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The key reasons for the recent hike, aside from ongoing unrest in the Middle East, are an oil industry workers strike in Nigeria, an OPEC nation, and the hurricanes that ripped through Florida this year, Knittle said.

She said the hurricanes had a substantial negative impact on production and distribution.

"Since Hurricane Ivan, there's been a loss of 17 million barrels of crude oil," Knittle said. "They couldn't be produced because of damage from the storm."

Knittle said about 500,000 barrels a day are being lost because of effects of Ivan.

Knittle said the price increases are a concern because there usually is a reprieve after Labor Day.

Eloisa Banes, 44, of Hagerstown, said the price increases, both now and early in the summer, mean it costs her about $19.50 to fill her car's tank, instead of the $12 it required less than a year ago.

"For people who have to travel down the road a bit for work, it makes a big difference," said Banes, a customer at Pennsylvania Avenue Exxon.

Sonya Foor, 35, of Clear Spring, said she almost expected the latest increase.

"I don't know that I'm surprised - It's been fluctuating for a long time," she said. "It bothers me when I have to dig into my pocket, but I'm in the state of mind that I don't stress about what I can't control."

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