RENO, Nev. - Gas pump grief may be entering remission.
After six weeks of almost daily increases, prices are leveling off or even falling. And with wholesale prices softening as well, the outlook is for better prices at the pump.
''Some West Coast cities are down a bit. It's very slight over all, but some stations are widening that gap,'' said Paul Moreno, who tracks Nevada gasoline prices for the American Automobile Association of California.
He said the improvement is only indirectly linked to this week's decision by OPEC ministers to increase oil production, which is not expected to have any real effect on pump prices until summer.
''Oil prices have softened because traders were anticipating that OPEC would increase production, although nobody was sure by how much,'' he said.
A spot check Thursday in the Reno-Carson City area had prices generally in the $1.70-$1.80 range for a gallon of regular unleaded, although a few stations were selling gas in the high $1.60 range.
''Independents are leading the downhill charge to compete by offering lower prices,'' Moreno said.
That was confirmed by Mohammed Ahmad, who owns the Eagle Gas and the Gas and Save stations in Carson City.
''When my price goes up, the pump price goes straight up. When it goes down, it's a straight drop,'' he said. ''The company stations go up slower and come down slower.''
His stations were pumping gas for $1.69 a gallon on Thursday. A couple of blocks away, an AM-PM station listed gas at $1.78.
''Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, I'll go to $1.66,'' he said.
Since Feb. 15, prices in Reno climbed 35 cents to an average high of $1.86, according to the Automobile Association.
Average prices in Las Vegas topped out at $1.73, up 26 cents, and Carson City was up 40 cents over the same period to an average of $1.82, the association's survey said.
Ahmad, who said prices at his station peaked at $1.77 a gallon, was glad to see the drop.
''It helps the business,'' he said.