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    Gas Prices Rise 20 Cents in Two Weeks

    Lundberg survey places U.S. average gas price at $2.55 per gallon.

    NEW YORK -- The U.S. regular gasoline price per gallon rose 20 cents over the past two weeks, to average $2.55 a gallon, the highest since September when prices topped $2.65, reported Bloomberg News, citing the Lundberg survey of 7,000 gas retailers nationwide.

    Wholesale gasoline futures rose to more than $1.92 per gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange on March 8, the highest in more than six months, due to slowing production at the country's refineries and a higher demand for gasoline that is depleting U.S. inventories, the report stated. ExxonMobil Corp.'s Torrance refinery is undergoing maintenance, while Tesoro Corp.'s start-up of several production units will be delayed until mid-March due to mechanical problems. A fire at Valero Energy Corp.'s McKee refinery in Texas will keep the plant closed until April, the report stated.

    "This is reduced gasoline output from refineries and very strong gasoline demand,'' Trilby Lundberg said in an interview. "The rest of March and part of April will be probably a tight gasoline supply situation with somewhat further rising prices.''

    Gasoline consumption is higher than usual this winter, averaging more than 9.1 million barrels a day for the four weeks ended March 2, and 3.3 percent over the same period last year, according to the Energy Department. Gasoline demand typically peaks in the summer and grows by 1.5 to 2 percent a year, the report stated. U.S. gasoline inventories fell to the lowest in eight weeks, to 216.4 million barrels as of March 2, according to the Energy Department.

    Prices could travel higher as daylight-savings time arrived four weeks earlier, Lundberg said. The switch "moves spring driving season a whole month earlier." Those drivers that limit their driving to daylight hours will find more time to do so, she said.

    The highest price for self-serve regular gasoline was $3.10 a gallon in San Francisco, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Anchorage, Alaska, at $2.22.

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