LI gasoline prices creep up on Syria worries

Prices at a Mobil station in Holbrook on Prices at a Mobil station in Holbrook on Wednesday reflect hikes linked to a possible military action against Syria. Barring disruptions, some analysts forecast stable gas prices for the rest of September. (Sept. 4, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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Gasoline prices on Long Island have edged up almost 3 cents a gallon in a week amid worries about crude oil supply disruptions if the United States attacks Syria for its alleged use of poison gas against civilians.

Regular gasoline averaged $3.916 a gallon in Nassau and Suffolk Wednesday morning, the AAA said based on a survey of stations. A week earlier it averaged $3.887.

"It's really all related to Syria," said Andy Lipow, president of the Houston consulting company Lipow Oil Associates LLC. "Otherwise, prices would have continued to drift off."

Barring major disruptions in supplies, he and Stephen Schork, editor of the industry newsletter The Schork Report, forecast stable to somewhat lower pump prices for the rest of September. After Labor Day demand for gasoline normally declines by about 3 percent, Lipow said. That fall usually results in a decline in pump prices until the December holiday travel and shopping season.

Also, in coming weeks gas stations will switch over to winter grade gasoline, which is cheaper to produce. And, Lipow said, it has been a mild hurricane season -- so far at least -- which also keeps prices in check.

Supply will dip, however, as refineries switch some production from gasoline to heating oil for the winter, Lipow said. And many will temporarily curtail output of fuels for routine fall maintenance.

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What's different this year is that the Syrian crisis has helped push the U.S. benchmark grade of crude oil up, reaching an intraday high point of more than $112 on Aug. 28. Oil had been trading in the mid $90s in June and rose in July on fears of supply disruptions from the military takeover of the Egyptian government, which controls the Suez Canal.

U.S. crude for October delivery settled Wednesday down $1.31, at $107.23 in floor trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Syria is not a major producer of crude oil, said Lipow. "The oil market is concerned about events in Syria leading to supply disruptions outside of Syria that are caused by proxies acting on behalf of the Syrian government," he said.

Wednesday's average for regular gas on Long Island was 13 cents lower than a year earlier, the AAA said, and also below this summer's peak of $4.012, on July 23.

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