Beware March 15: Diesel prices could soar, OPIS says

| Wednesday, March 12, 2003

February may be the shortest month, but it concluded 2003 with some of the largest fuel price increases on record in U.S. markets, according to Oil Price Information Service (OPIS).

Thanks to global war worries, the Venezuelan oil strike, the first sustained cold winter of the decade, and low inventories, average nationwide prices for gasoline could soon surpass $1.70 a gallon, and diesel prices could approach $1.85-$1.90 a gallon before the Ides of March.

February 2003 began with nationwide diesel pump prices of $1.54 a gallon, but the month closed with a nationwide average of just under $1.80 a gallon, up 26 cents. A year ago, average U.S. retail diesel prices were $1.22 a gallon, more than 60 cents a gallon below where they are likely to peak this March, OPIS reported.

Meanwhile, all types of predictions are being made about what may occur in world oil markets the next 40 days. Already, "wartime planning meetings" are being held among large and small companies throughout the petroleum distribution chain, OPIS said.

OPIS is a source of U.S. wholesale, spot and retail petroleum prices, tracking more than 85,000 daily retail gasoline prices, and 70,000 rack and spot prices for heating oil, gasoline, diesel, kerosene, jet fuel, LP Gas, residual fuel, natural gas, MTBE and ethanol. More than 100 billion gallons of fuel are purchased annually based on an OPIS Price Index.

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