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Problems at 2 refineries are blamed for jump in gasoline prices

Friday, July 13, 2007 | 5:47 p.m. CDT; updated 8:38 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Gasoline prices have been rising and probably won’t come down soon.

The going price for regular unleaded gasoline in Columbia today was $2.99 a gallon.

Problems at two refineries in the Midwest that help supply the region are part of the reason for the increase in price. A refinery in Coffeyville, Kan., was shut down because of flooding on June 30 and remains closed. Operations at a Whiting, Ind., refinery have been reduced since March because of a fire.

“We don’t anticipate refineries coming back on line anytime soon, especially for the Coffeyville refinery, so we expect prices will remain high for the forseeable future,” Robert Leone, president of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, said today.

Prices have gone up because suppliers now have to travel farther to get the gasoline they need, Leone said.

Missouri’s average retail price for regular unleaded gasoline rose from $2.83 per gallon to $2.98, an increase of 5 percent, in the past three weeks, according to a July 10 report by the Department of Natural Resources’ Energy Center. Missouri’s average price is identical to the U.S. average and below the Midwest average of $3.04 a gallon. Compared with July of last year, average gasoline prices in Missouri have gone up from $2.83 to $2.98 a gallon.

Average Midwest gasoline prices have been higher than the national average this year, which is unusual, with higher prices usually seen on the East and West coasts, said Kerry Cordray, spokesman for the Energy Center.

Another reason for higher prices is increased summer travel, Cordray said. The Energy Center report said national gasoline prices are up by 1.4 percent compared with last year. The increased demand plus decreased supply leads to higher prices.

“I’m not sure if people are driving further or faster or in less efficient vehicles, but most likely, the biggest contributing factor is more vehicle miles,” Cordray said.

Other reasons are contributing to high gasoline prices, the Energy Center report said. Unrest in the Middle East, Venezuela and Nigeria, all major crude oil producers, has raised prices worldwide.

The center surveys selected gasoline stations throughout Missouri and releases a report on average prices every two weeks.

Prices have continued to increase since the most recent survey, which was completed and released on July 10, Cordray said. The report looked at prices from June 21 to July 10. The report gives a historical perspective of prices but does not predict prices.


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