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Gasoline passes $4 in 4 states as pump prices keep rising
NEW YORK (AP) ' Gasoline is now over $4 per gallon in four states and Washington, D.C., as a three-month surge in pump prices continues.
The nation's capital, Illinois, California, Alaska and Hawaii all posted averages above $4 on Wednesday, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Prices in several other states, including Oregon, Connecticut, New York and Washington, are almost there.
Nationwide, gasoline has soared by nearly 54 cents this year to an average of $3.81 per gallon.
Prices are rising as service stations pass along the higher cost of crude. Benchmark oil prices have risen by nearly 8 percent since January.
Pump prices also tend to jump this time of year as gasoline suppliers sell off their remaining stocks of winter gasoline to make room for a different grade of gasoline required in the summer. The seasonal switch causes a temporary supply dip that pushes prices even higher.
On Wednesday the government indicated that the switch was under way. Gasoline supplies fell by 1.4 million barrels last week, according to the Energy Information Administration's weekly report.
Oil prices fell slightly after the EIA reported that the nation's crude supplies rose last week as expected. Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude, which sets the price of much of the oil produced in the U.S., fell by 59 cents to $106.12 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price oil imported by U.S. refineries, fell by 56 cents to $125.66 per barrel in London.
The EIA report also noted that energy demand remains weak in the U.S. Oil demand dropped 5.4 percent while wholesale gasoline demand fell by 7.2 percent when compared with a year ago.
Earlier in the day, the International Energy Agency said that global oil supplies fell by 200,000 barrels per day in February, even as members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries increased production. Government energy experts predict that global supplies will continue to fall later this year. Tighter supplies could push oil and gasoline prices higher.
U.S. energy officials have called on major oil producers to address the supply shortage, and Saudi Arabia's top oil official said Wednesday that OPEC will produce more, if needed. "Saudi Arabia and others remain poised to make good any shortfalls ' perceived or real ' in crude oil supply," Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi said at a major oil conference in Kuwait.
In an interview with The Associated Press in Kuwait City, the head of the International Energy Forum said he believes there is no supply shortage.
"There is enough oil in the market," said IEF Secretary-General Aldo Flores-Quiroga. "It is well supplied."
The IEF is a group based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that includes major oil producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia as well as the large consuming nations of the IEA and other nations.
In other energy trading, heating oil was virtually unchanged at $3.27 per gallon, as were gasoline futures at $3.35 per gallon. Natural gas futures rose by 1 cents to $2.29 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Associated Press Writer Adam Schreck contributed to this story from Kuwait City.
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