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Holiday gas prices hit record high in Ohio, Pa.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Some older gas pumps can’t display prices over $3.99.

Associated Press

For the second straight year, record-high gasoline prices are greeting Memorial Day weekend travelers in Ohio.

The daily AAA survey shows the statewide average cost of regular has reached another all-time high, at about $3.96 per gallon. The average for diesel also is at a new record, at a half-cent below $4.60.

Just before Memorial Day weekend last year, regular gas was averaging $3.40 a gallon in Ohio, a record that stood until last month.

Web sites where consumer spotters post prices in their neighborhoods indicate that many service stations around Ohio are already charging more than $4 for regular. In Toledo, the AAA average is $4.01, the highest among the state’s major metro areas.

The auto club says the national average could easily blast past $4 in coming weeks.

With gas prices going over $4 a gallon in some areas of Pennsylvania, it’s not just a problem for consumers.

Some older gas pumps can’t display a price above $3.99. So, Pennsylvania is joining other states in allowing gas stations with those older pumps to temporarily have the pump set to the price for half a gallon of gas, Gov. Ed Rendell’s office announced Friday.

“Most retail fuel stations in Pennsylvania can display per-gallon prices over $4, but we will accommodate those that cannot, allowing business to continue and ensuring consumers get what they pay for,” Rendell said in a statement.

The price on the pump is multiplied by two before the customer pays. The price of a full gallon has to be on the sign drivers see from the street.

The state estimates that fewer than 500 gas pumps statewide have this problem, Rendell’s office said. To get permission for half-gallon pricing, Pennsylvania gas stations must order an upgrade kit that will allow the pump to display and compute unit prices of $4 per gallon and higher.

Half-gallon pricing was in widespread use decades ago, when the price of gas went above $1 for the first time.

The daily Mid-Atlantic AAA survey shows that regular unleaded gasoline was selling above $4 per gallon Friday morning from at least 45 stations in the five-county Philadelphia area.

The highest was $4.299 at a Lukoil station in New Hope, Bucks County, but AAA said that figure and the prices at other stations likely will change throughout the day and weekend.

AAA has found prices in excess of $4 gallon as average in seven states — Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan and New York, spokeswoman Catherine Rossi said. The highest price is in Alaska, where gas is averaging a $4.18 gallon, Rossi said.