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Higher gas prices due to gulf oil spill have energy experts divided

The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico won't cause higher retail gasoline prices, two people familiar with petroleum markets said Monday. But a third said he thinks that it will be a contributing factor in boosting pump prices.

"The oil spill is a serious, serious environmental story and probably a serious political story," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks gasoline prices for AAA.

But the spill is the result of a blowout at a single offshore rig and shouldn't affect overall U.S. oil production or gasoline prices, he said. "There's a lot of excess refining capacity" along the Gulf Coast, he said.

Gas prices are likely to continue rising this week, and could peak at a national average of $3, Kloza said. But pump prices tend to go up with increased spring and summer driving, and expectations of a rebounding economy have already driven up oil and gasoline prices on futures markets, he said.

Gasoline is refined from crude oil. U.S. retail gas prices average nearly $2.90 a gallon, up 4.9 cents in the past week and 82 cents higher than a year ago, the federal Energy Information Administration said Monday.

Bernard Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a well-known economist, said the oil spill will contribute to higher pump prices "because of the uncertainty it creates," especially in regard to its potential to curb domestic offshore drilling.

"Without question, we're going to be looking at higher gasoline prices ... oil prices are already going up," said Weinstein, who was attending the annual Offshore Technology Conference in Houston on Monday.

To read the complete article, visit www.star-telegram.com.

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