Filling it up has never been more expensive in Nevada counties

RENO - Buying gas in Nevada isn't just expensive these days. It's historic.

It has never cost so much to keep a car going, according to AAA Nevada.

Triple-A said on Wednesday that the average cost of a gallon of self-serve unleaded in the Reno-Sparks area was $1.91, up 16 cents from just a month ago and a nickel more than the previous record high in April.

Gas is a penny or so cheaper in Carson City and bargain hunters can find stations posting a price of $1.79.

But Carson's average of $1.90 is 19 cents higher than last month and still is a record, as is the statewide average of $1.84, up 14 cents in a month and 36 cents in a year.

By comparison, Las Vegas is a bargain at $1.80 - up 13 cents - and Elko is a steal at $1.75, just 8 cents a gallon more than a month ago.

The nationwide average for unleaded regular gasoline now stands at $1.58 a gallon, the American Automobile Association said. That's up 9 cents from August and 30 cents from last September.

''Until OPEC opens up the valves and we replenish our supplies, high prices will stay,'' said Steve Yarborough, president of the Nevada Gasoline Retailers Association.

''We're getting up close to that $2 mark. Prior to that, you have to go back to the Gulf War crisis when we got that close for a short period of time,'' he said.

The trend reflects the rising price of crude oil on world markets. On Monday, it reached $37.15, the highest since October 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The price fell 37 cents on Tuesday but observers say $40 a barrel is possible as worries continue over oil availability for fuel and - with autumn just two days away - for heating this winter.

The usual price relief after the traditional end-of-summer Labor Day holiday, when demand typically eases, has not happened.

Even the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreement 10 days ago to raise output quotas by 800,000 barrels a day has done little to stem prices that have more than tripled since December 1998.

At the wholesale level in Nevada, ''the squeeze is on,'' said Peter Krueger, state executive for the Nevada Petroleum Marketers Association.

''Whether you're a dealer or an independent distributor, the margins are terrible,'' he said. ''The gasoline futures speculators are setting the price. We've got people, and its the American way, who see an opportunity to make some money.''


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