Gas prices expected to climb

Freedom Newspapers

Area residents could see higher gas prices in the coming weeks, according to AAA New Mexico spokesperson Jeanie Chavez.

The recent announcement that an Alaskan oil company has shut down in order to replace a corroded pipe line is the latest in a string of events that led to record gas prices in New Mexico this week, she said.

BP Oil Co. is the nation’s single biggest source of domestic crude oil. It pumps out about 400,000 barrels a day. The pipeline repairs — and loss of more than half of Alaska’s crude oil — are likely to take months to repair.

U.S. Senate Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said BP is looking at ways that might allow continued production from half the oil field while repairs are made.

“It will take months to fix so we must deal with the issues at hand,” Bodman said.

According to the secretary, there are adequate supplies of crude oil in inventory and available from other producers.

However, Chavez said a lack of oil is not the problem; instead the refineries are to blame. According to Chavez, many U.S. refineries are still not operable after the damage sustained to them during last year’s hurricanes.

“Many of the refineries are simply just old, too,” Chavez said.
New Mexico’s average gas price hit a state record of $3.085 a gallon on Monday, a half-cent higher than the previous high recorded in September 2002.

Clovis gas prices averaged $2.96 a gallon Wednesday afternoon.

Nationally, gas prices will likely rise a dime in response to BP’s announcement, according to John Person, president of National Futures Advisory Service in Florida, which provides financial information on gas prices.

Person said consumers should not expect to gas prices to go down significantly anytime soon, if ever. Global and consumer demand for gas hasn’t decreased, he said, so the market is commanding a premium price. “It’s unlikely people will start truly conserving fuel until prices hit $5 or $6 a gallon,” Person said, “It hasn’t gone into our lifestyle yet.”

Although consumers will see the gas price increase in one to three weeks, Chavez said people should try not to panic.

“Local manufacturers are not making much money right now,” she said, “and they (gas stations) are trying hard to avoid going higher on gas prices.”

Chavez said residents can play a role in balancing fuel prices by making smart choices. She advises buying a fuel-efficient vehicle, cutting down on unnecessary driving and adhering to the maintenance schedule on vehicles.