Pump prices hit heights not seen since October

Link to Houston Chronicle article here.

Pump prices hit heights not seen since October
Ethanol switch affects 30 Dallas stations
April 3, 2006
Houston Chronicle

WASHINGTON – The fuel pain worsened for Americans last week as the retail price for gasoline shot up an average 9 cents to the highest level since October, the government said on Monday.

The national average price for regular unleaded hit $2.59 a gallon, up 26 cents in the last month and 37 cents higher than a year ago, based on the Energy Information Administration’s survey of service stations.

Los Angeles topped the survey of major cities, with gasoline at $2.78 a gallon. Denver had the most affordable price at $2.50. It was up 12.2 cents at $2.57 in Houston.

And the EIA is worried about local gasoline supply disruptions this summer as oil refiners switch from using the water-polluting fuel additive MTBE to corn-based ethanol.

About 30 Valero branded service stations in the Dallas area were out of gasoline late Monday, after two gasoline terminals in that area ran dry over the past several days.

Valero Energy Corp. spokeswoman Mary Rose Brown said about 60 Valero stations had been without fuel early Monday after a Valero terminal went dry for about half a day Sunday.

Brown said the Valero terminal had experienced a surge in demand after a terminal owned by another company emptied its tank as part of a switch from one kind of gasoline to a blend containing ethanol.

The Energy Department’s forecasting arm said two weeks ago gas prices had hit a short-term peak of $2.50 a gallon. That appeared to be the case after pump prices fell about about half a penny the following week.

The new jump in fuel costs mirrors a rise in crude oil prices. World oil prices rose Monday, briefly topping $67 a barrel, because of the uncertain outlooks for supplies out of Iran and Nigeria. Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled 11 cents higher at $66.74 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

On Monday, gasoline futures fell 2.11 cents to close at $1.8632 a gallon, while heating oil futures were essentially unchanged at $1.8622 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3.4 cents to $7.244 per million British thermal units. London Brent rose 93 cents to $66.84 a barrel.

Chronicle reporter David Ivanovich contributed to this story.