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Gas prices stagnate over the week

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Energy officials continue to have a positive outlook as they monitor tropical disturbances in the Atlantic Ocean and their possible effects on fuel costs.

The National Weather Service reported a moderate chance of scattered rain showers and thunderstorms for the week, resulting from the remnants of Tropical Storm Claudette.

Activity in the Atlantic Ocean continues to brew, however, according to the National Hurricane Center, which downgraded Tropical Storm Ana to a tropical depression and reported that Hurricane Bill had gained strength on Monday.

In the past, gas prices have been adversely affected when crude oil supplies were cut off from pipelines impacted by tropical storms, said Neil Gamson, an economist with the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"We don't see that within the next week or so, at least," Gamson said.

The price of crude oil is expected to stay roughly flat at an average of $70 per barrel through the fourth quarter of 2009. Gamson said, however, that crude oil prices are projected to rise slowly, as economic conditions improve.

He said prices have declined or remained stagnate over the past week as a result of consumer confidence. Demand and retail sales are down.

"It's sort of a function of people's economic outlook," he said. "It looks like gasoline might not head back up again [in the short term]; it's actually dipping."

Nationally, average gas prices remained at $2.64 per gallon of regular unleaded on Monday, the same price consumers paid the previous week, according to AAA Auto Club South. The average remained at $2.48 over the week in Georgia.

The stagnate prices come a week after crude oil prices topped $70 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), according to AAA Auto Club South Spokesman Gregg Laskoski.

Laskoski said investors responded to positive news from the U.S. Department of Labor, and the national gas average prices climbed 9 cents per gallon to $2.64. The recent freeze in prices, however, according to Laskoski, is due in part to falling crude oil prices last week (Aug. 10-14).

Following weeks of incremental increases, the price of crude oil shed $3.42 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday, Laskoski said. The NYMEX closed the week at $67.51 per barrel.

"Conflicting forecasts on oil demand for the remainder of the year have dampened the favorable outlook on the economy that pushed crude oil prices into the $70-plus range per barrel," Laskoski said.

"The rate of increase for retail fuel prices has flattened and that is reflected in the national average price of gasoline as well as in the average prices for Florida, Georgia and Tennessee," he said. "Should hurricane season deliver any substantive damage, retail price volatility could accompany it."