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Drop in gas prices does little to quiet motorists

by Franny White

STAFF WRITER

Most consumers can't seem to grumble loud enough as gas prices seem to keep soaring. But Clarksburg area residents can let out a small sigh of relief this week.

Gas prices may be nearly 50 cents higher than they were last year, but at least they aren't much higher than the national average.

While a Friday survey of Clarksburg gas stations produced a Clarksburg average price of $1.5622 per gallon of self-serve, regular unleaded gas, the American Automobile Association reported the nation's average price was $1.5604. The AAA's West Virginia average was 6 cents higher at $1.628 per gallon.

Nationwide, AAA reports gas prices have fallen more than 5 cents per gallon in the last month. The drop is due to significantly lower prices in the Great Lakes and Midwestern states, where gas prices were the nation's highest a month ago.

A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report from Wisconsin said Milwaukee's prices peaked at $2.08 per gallon on June 16. Now, the city's average is $1.48.

Prices in Clarksburg peaked around $1.75 a month ago.

Things may be better, but people were still grumbling Friday at a Clarksburg gas station.

"It's definitely outrageous," Ben Lowther of Clarksburg said. "It takes $30 to fill a vehicle when it normally shouldn't."

Tiffany Lantz of Clarksburg said any potential travel plans have been cut short by the high gas prices.

"I don't go that many places ... because I can't afford it," Lantz said. But, she said she didn't think the prices were "too high."

Clarksburg resident Robert Thomas wasn't so sure.

"I think maybe the gas company is kinda taking advantage of the situation," Thomas said.

State Attorney General Darrell McGraw agrees with that. He sent some of his office's staff to meet with the Federal Trade Commission in Chicago to propose the federal government look into price manipulation by the gas companies.

He would like to form a task force of each of the 50 states' attorney generals, Department of Justice's antitrust division and four other federal organizations to address the issue.

"The gas companies take advantage of high demand to jack up the price when people can least afford it," the attorney general said.

But the attorney general didn't have a definite timeline on Friday. The task force is most likely far in the future.

So in the meantime, either grin and bear the prices - or walk.

Staff writer Franny White can be reached at 626-1443.

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