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Predicting holiday gas prices impossible

Tribune Staff

Southeastern Ohio motorists received an early Christmas present last week in the form of a 5-cent drop in the average price of a gallon of gasoline.

But how long will it be before the Grinch steals Christmas?

According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the region this week is $1.30, down from $1.35 a week ago. One year ago, motorists in the area were paying just $1.11 per gallon.

According to AAA's Weekly Fuel Gauge, begrudging compliance by Iraq with weapons inspections required by the United Nations has helped push the nationwide average down to $1.38 per gallon this week. The same, however, could eventually cause gas prices to rise, experts say.

Crude oil price by the barrels have risen this week as uncertainty looms whether or not Iraq will comply with the U.N resolution on arms inspections. If not, U.S.-led military action seems inevitable. The price of crude oil accounts for about 45 percent of the cost of gasoline.

According to Oil & Gas Journal, another situation that could cause gas prices to climb are concerns about Venezuelan oil workers joining a nationwide strike -- an effort to oust President Hugo Chavez. About 82 percent of the country's oil workers have joined the strike, union officials said Tuesday.

This is a bad time for disruptions in the oil industry as the U.S. will likely need Venezuelan barrels of crude oil if war erupts in Iraq.

Two dates that could play huge roles in the future of gas prices are this Friday, when Iraq has to disclose a list of all its long-range missiles and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons to U.N. inspectors, and Dec. 12, when OPEC meets in Vienna to discuss production levels that have been exceeding agreed targets.

Given the situations in Iraq and Venezuela, predicting what gas prices are going to be in the near future could be as difficult as picking the winning numbers for tonight's Super Lotto. Let's just hope the prices posted at our local gas stations do not climb with the jackpot.