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Tri-State gas prices rise

September 01, 2005|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN

tarar@herald-mail.com

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is hitting pocketbooks in the Tri-State area, causing gas prices to jump by as much as 44 cents in a day.

The price of regular gas at several service stations in the Hagers- town area reached $2.99 per gallon Wednesday, up from $2.55 a gallon Tuesday morning.

One local gas station owner predicted the price will hit $3.40 by Labor Day.

Amanda Knittle, public affairs specialist for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said Wednesday it's likely prices will continue to rise.

"Nobody wants to see them go up anymore," Knittle said.

Gas prices typically take a dip after Labor Day to mark the end of the summer travel season, she said, but Hurricane Katrina wiped out those hopes.

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"This storm has hit the Achilles heal (sic) of the oil industry - the Gulf Coast region, which is a critical source of oil in this country," Catherine L. Rossi, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a written statement. "Major pipelines have lost power and as a result, the entire oil infrastructure and its supply chain are deeply affected by this storm."

Gas stations in Marlowe, W.Va., charged $2.89 a gallon Wednesday, as did several stations in Hagerstown, including AC&T on Wesel Boulevard. Late Wednesday, gas at Sheetz in Halfway and Williamsport was at $2.99.

Long Meadow Exxon, just outside Hagerstown city limits, had one of the lowest prices Wednesday afternoon at $2.69 a gallon.

The average gas price Wednesday in Martinsburg, W.Va., was $2.57, according to AAA's online Fuel Price Finder.

The average price in Chambersburg, Pa., was $2.67, while Greencastle, Pa.'s average price Wednesday was $2.65, according to Fuel Price Finder.

Crude oil cost $71 a barrel Tuesday, 60 percent higher than it was a year ago, Knittle said.

Until power is restored to the Gulf region and damage to the oil refineries is assessed, it's hard to tell how long prices will continue to rise, she said.

"We're on the verge of bankruptcy because of these prices," Cliff Lapkoff, owner of Sharpsburg Pike Sunoco at 1450 S. Potomac St. in Hagerstown, said Wednesday.

Lapkoff said gas stations typically pay a 3 percent credit card fee whenever a customer charges gas. Higher prices mean higher fees paid by gas stations, resulting in less profit for the service centers, he said.

He said he's spoken with several local gas station owners who are considering getting out of the business because they're nearly broke.

Lapkoff also blamed President Bush and the oil companies for the high prices.

"I feel that it's a shame we have an oil man in office. It's a shame that the oil companies have had record profits in the U.S.," Lapkoff said.

Lapkoff said he expects prices to climb today and through Labor Day, when he thinks they'll hit about $3.40 a gallon.

He said gas was selling for $2.89 gallon at his station Wednesday.

He said he'd like Bush to support a cut on the gas tax to lower prices at the pump over the long term.

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