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    Up, Up and Away

    Government raises its summer gas price estimate, now at $2.88 a gallon.

    WASHINGTON -- The federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) yesterday raised its estimate for the average price American drivers will pay for gasoline this summer to $2.88 a gallon, reflecting higher oil costs. That's 12 cents more than the $2.76 per gallon the EIA had previously forecast, and 51 cents higher than last summer's pump price.

    The Energy Department's analytical arm released its latest motor fuel price estimate in its latest monthly energy forecast. According to the EIA, the average price U.S. consumers paid for gasoline jumped 3.9 cents over the past week to $2.97 a gallon, the second highest level ever, Reuters reported.

    The national pump price for regular unleaded gasoline is up 65 cents from a year ago and not far from the record $3.07 reached last September after Hurricane Katrina disrupted petroleum supplies, according to the EIA's weekly survey of 800 service stations, the Reuters report stated.

    Furthermore, the much larger Lundberg survey of 7,000 stations showed gasoline increased about 11 cents over the last two weeks to $3 a gallon, when rounded to the nearest penny. This rise at the pump reflects an increase in U.S. crude oil prices, which accounts for about half the cost of making gasoline, said Reuters.

    The price for U.S. oil for delivery in August hit a record $75.78 a barrel last week at the New York Mercantile Exchange, and the pump price had a long way to fall before meeting the EIA's initial forecast that gasoline will average $2.76 a gallon this summer.

    The latest pump price came on the same day a U.S. senator released a congressional report he said showed that a group of major oil companies, which included Exxon Mobil have enjoyed higher rates of return than the industry has implied, according to Reuters.

    Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a critic of Big Oil who requested the report from the Congressional Research Service, said select major oil companies earned 7.1 cents on every dollar in sales last year and almost 6.5 cents in 2004. He said this was much more than the average 5.9 cents on the dollar that the American Petroleum Institute trade group has advertised the entire U.S. oil and gas industry earned over the last five years.

    In the EIA's new weekly survey, the West Coast had the most expensive gasoline by region, with the price up 2.7 cents to $3.14 a gallon. Additionally, Los Angeles had the highest pump price among the cities surveyed at $3.28 a gallon, up 6.6 cents, the report stated.

    On the other hand, the Gulf Coast states had the cheapest gasoline at $2.85 a gallon, up 2.5 cents. Among major cities, Houston had the best pump price at $2.90, up 2.4 cents.

    The EIA also reported that prices were up 4.6 cents in San Francisco at $3.21, up 7.4 cents in Chicago at $3.20, up 4.1 cents in New York City at $3.12, up 2.8 cents in Seattle at $3.03, up 5.3 cents in Boston at $3.01, up 2.7 cents in Miami at $2.97 and up 3 cents in Denver at $2.91, said Reuters.

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