WASHINGTON – U.S. retail gasoline prices fell for the ninth week in a row, the government reported Monday, although the rate of decline slowed, and the price remained 24 cents higher than a year ago.
President Bush said high gasoline prices amounted to a tax on consumers and businesses, and called on Congress to pass legislation to promote construction of more oil refineries to boost fuel supplies.
The national price for regular unleaded gasoline declined just 0.7 cent over the last week to an average $2.15 a gallon, based on the federal Energy Information Administration's survey of service stations.
The much broader Lundberg survey covering 7,000 gas stations reported that the average gasoline price fell almost 11 cents over the last two weeks to $2.13 a gallon.
The EIA said the pump price has dropped 92 cents since reaching a record high of $3.07 a gallon in early September after Hurricane Katrina damaged oil refineries along the Gulf Coast and disrupted fuel supplies.
Bush, in remarks to workers at a manufacturing plant in Kernersville, North Carolina, backed legislation to encourage new refinery construction.
"We realize how dependent and how fragile our infrastructure is when it comes to gasoline," Bush said. "In order to take the pressure off your pocketbook, it seems to make sense to me that we need to expand the amount of supply of gasoline," Bush said.
A new U.S. oil refinery has not been built since the 1970s.
In the EIA's latest weekly survey, the West Coast had the most expensive regional gasoline, with the price down 7.1 cents to $2.32 a gallon. Miami again topped the agency's survey of cities, with gasoline down 5.7 cents to $2.39 a gallon.
The Gulf Coast had the cheapest gasoline at $2.08 a gallon, down 2.1 cents. Among major cities, Houston had the cheapest fuel, down 4.2 cents to $2.01 a gallon.
The EIA report also showed prices, rounded to the nearest penny, down 7.7 cents at $2.36 in Los Angeles, down 7.8 cents at $2.29 in Seattle, up 4.8 cents at $2.23 in Chicago, down 3.5 cents at $2.16 in New York City, up 9.4 cents to $2.12 in Cleveland and up 0.8 cent at $2.06 in Boston.
Separately, the weekly price for diesel fuel dropped 5.4 cents to $2.43 a gallon, the lowest level in 17 weeks but still 36 cents higher from a year ago, the agency said.
Truckers in the New England region paid the most for diesel at $2.59 a gallon, down 2.8 cents from last week. The lower Atlantic states had the cheapest diesel at $2.35 a gallon, down 4 cents.