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Oil, gas prices fall as demand eases

Heating oil and gasoline prices locally dipped a bit in the past week, amid strong supplies, lower demand and a slippage of crude oil futures.

Prices probably will fall a little further, predicts petroleum analyst Andy Lipow, president of the Houston consulting company Lipow Oil Associates Llc. "I think they'll probably decline 5 cents [a gallon] and that's because the entire oil market has declined over the past week," he said. But another analyst, Neal Walters, a partner in the energy practice of consulting firm A.T. Kearney's Toronto office, thinks the cold snap that was coming in overnight will firm up heating oil and diesel prices "with some upside potential."

Heating oil fell 4 cents a gallon on Long Island in the week that ended Monday, to an average of $3.057 charged by full service dealers. That's the lowest this month, according to the state Energy Research and Development Authority. It was 33 cents higher than a year earlier.

Regular gasoline averaged $2.933 a gallon on Long Island Thursday, the AAA said, down almost 3 cents a gallon from the previous week but still 96 cents higher than a year earlier, when crude oil and gasoline prices were near their low points for 2009.

Crude oil's price has dropped 12 percent since reaching a 15-month high of $83.95 on Jan. 11, according to Bloomberg News, because of what Lipow says were strong supplies, some strengthening of the dollar and continued discouraging economic news suggesting continued weak demand for energy. Crude settled Thursday at $73.64 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Wednesday in its weekly fuels report that demand for gasoline last week was slightly below that of a year earlier but that gasoline stocks were 4.4 percent higher.

Assistance for those having difficulty paying heating bills is available in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Nassau residents should call its Department of Social Services at 516-565-4327. Suffolk residents should call the social services department at 631-853-8820 for the Low or Middle Income Heating Assistance Programs.

For help under the United Way of Long Island's Project Warmth, residents are asked to call United Way directly at 631-940-3757.

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