Monday, September 26, 2005

Not-so-Robust Rita reflected in receding energy prices

With Hurricane Rita dissipating before impact, everyone across the nation should be celebrating.

Futures prices for oil, gasoline and heating oil fell Sunday in an extended trading session in New York after preliminary inspections showed less-than-expected damage to refineries in Hurricane Rita's path.

Nonetheless, oil experts warned that Rita's winds packed enough punch to cripple a handful of refineries for a few weeks — and that means retail gasoline prices could rise over the next month in some parts of the country before descending again.

"I think we kind of dodged one of those rocket-propelled grenades, but we took a couple of bullets" in the refining industry, said Tom Kloza, oil analyst and editorial director at the Oil Price Information Service. "This means supply is going to be touch-and-go until about Columbus Day, and generally, we'll see higher [pump] prices."

Consumers in the Southeast and Midwest are the most vulnerable to price hikes, Kloza said. He predicted pump prices there could jump back to $3 or so "until supply gets into balance."