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Paying the price -- Instability rattles heating oil market

- By JIM FRANCO

Our reporter caught up with consumers at the gas pump this weekend, and asked what they thought about the cost of gas.

Through most of the summer, the cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gas hovered around $3, and while prices have since come down on average 25 percent, some consumers remain skeptical of why and what will happen after Election Day.

A September Gallup poll found that 42 percent of Americans believe the Bush administration is manipulating the prices to help Republicans get through what most predict to be a tough mid-term election, where Democrats are poised to take over the House.

Locally, many consumers said they feel the same way, but have mixed opinions about the relationship between politics and gas prices.

"I think they (prices) are going down because of the election," said Bernard Smith as he was filling up at the Stewart's on Delaware Avenue in Delmar. "I do think they will go back up (after the election), but they will go up slowly."

"You watch. The day after the election they will start going back up," said his wife, Carol.

While industry analysts scoff at the idea that politics plays a role in gas prices -- saying that the speculative nature of the business and extraneous variables like Hurricane Katrina and increased demand in foreign countries are what have an impact on the supply of crude oil and drive the price at the pump " randomly sampled consumers believe that oil companies are making record profits.

"Why did Exxon Mobile make $10 billion in profit in one quarter alone?" said Paul Kot, a principal at Loudon Locksmith, who was filling up at a Mobil station on Route 7 in Latham. "It does not seem right. It is almost like a monopoly because everyone needs fuel, and where else are you going to go?"

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