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    Average Gasoline Price Nears $2

    Seventeen states have prices that average less than $2, according to AAA.

    WASHINGTON -- The average U.S. retail price for gasoline is closing in on $2 a gallon after falling another 15 cents over the last week to the lowest level since March 2005, the U.S. Energy Department said, according to a Reuters report.

    The average national price for regular unleaded gasoline fell for the ninth week in a row, to $2.07 a gallon, down $1.03 from a year ago, the department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its weekly survey of service stations.

    Seventeen states have gasoline prices that average under $2 a gallon, according to AAA figures.

    In related news, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee said the new Congress probably will not approve legislation to raise the federal tax on gasoline. Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman said he was aware of arguments that a high "variable tax" should be put on U.S. gasoline to prevent falling pump prices from encouraging Americans to drive more while making alternative fuels less attractive. Such a tax hike "would be very tough to pass," Bingaman said. "I don't think something like that has much prospect of being enacted in my honest opinion."

    Americans pay an 18.4-cent federal tax on each gallon of gasoline they buy, plus an extra 29 cents on average in combined state and local taxes, Reuters reported.

    In the EIA's weekly survey, gasoline was the most expensive on the West Coast at $2.36 at gallon, down 18 cents. Los Angeles had the highest city price: $2.42, down 21 cents.

    The Midwest had the lowest regional price at $1.94 a gallon, down 13 cents. Houston had the lowest city pump price, down 15 cents to $1.84.

    The EIA also reported gasoline prices were down 16 cents at $2.36 in San Francisco, down 18 cents at $2.29 in Miami, down 14 cents at $2.24 in Seattle, down 18 cents at $2.20 in New York City, down 21 cents at $2.20 in Chicago, down 19 cents at $2.04 in Boston and down 17 cents at $1.97 in Denver.

    Separately, the average price paid for diesel fuel fell 13.5 cents to $2.81 a gallon, the lowest since June 2007, and 60 cents less than a year ago, the EIA said.

    The New England states again had the most expensive diesel at $3.15 a gallon, down 12 cents. The Gulf Coast had the cheapest diesel at $2.75, down 15 cents.

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