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    Fuel Spiraling Downward

    U.S. retail gas prices lowest since March.

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. retail gas prices dropped for the fourth consecutive week, pulling the average cost of a gallon of gasoline to $1.36, its lowest level since March, according to the Energy Department.

    The latest pump price in the United States, based on a weekly survey of more than 800 convenience stores and gas stations by the department's Energy Information Administration (EIA), fell 1.6 cents, marking the lowest level for gasoline prices since $1.34 in the March 25 week.

    Concern that a conflict in Iraq could take place has helped push gas prices up 25.6 cents from the same time a year ago, the EIA said.

    Last week's gasoline prices were pulled lower, led by the Midwest, where the price of a gallon of gas fell by an average of 3.2 cents to $1.29, the lowest among all regions surveyed by the EIA. Motorists in the West coast posted the highest gasoline prices even though the average cost dipped 0.7 cents to $1.50, followed by New England where prices rose 0.1 cent to $1.48.

    Among the six major cities highlighted by the EIA, Houston pump prices were the cheapest at $1.33, down 0.4 cents. In Chicago, gasoline fell 3.3 cents to $1.38 while in Denver they dropped 1.4 cents to $1.41. San Francisco remained the most expensive place to fuel up even though prices eased 0.7 cents to $1.65. In New York, prices edged 0.2 cent lower to $1.52 a gallon.

    Prices in the six cities have risen between 19.1 cents in San Francisco and 40.1 cents in Los Angeles from a year ago. The national price for cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline, which is sold at about one-third of the gas stations in cities and smoggier areas, fell 0.9 cents to $1.46.

    U.S. diesel prices rose 0.2 cents in the latest week to $1.41. Prices, which were mixed across all major regions, are up an average 21.3 cents from a year ago. Truckers in the Gulf coast paid the least for diesel at $1.35, up 0.7 cents. New England had the highest diesel price with the average gallon up 0.1 cent to $1.50.

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