Gas thefts still prevalent despite lower prices   

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  While local gasoline prices have dropped somewhat from the near $2 a gallon level of a few weeks ago, the $1.70 per gallon apparently remains too much to pay for some consumers.
  Local law enforcement officers responded to three separate incidents of gas theft around Carter County within a 24-hour period Monday and Tuesday.
  Elizabethton Police Department Patrol Officer Richard Haney responded to a reported gas theft at Sunny's Sunshine Market, 825 N. Lynn Ave., shortly after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. A clerk advised Haney that a man pumped $20 of gas into his vehicle and attempted to pay with a check. The store did not accept the check so the subject left a driver's license and said he would return to pay for the fuel. The subject had not returned to pay for the gas at the time of report.
  Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Loretta Cloyd responded to gas theft at a market located at 2423 Elizabethton Highway Tuesday morning. A clerk at the station reported a female driver pumped $20.05 into a brown Pontiac and left without paying.
  EPD Patrolman Mike Sproviero responded to Roadrunner Market #141, 416 U.S. Highway 91, Tuesday night where an employee advised him of a gas theft. A clerk stated a female pumped $16.50 worth of gas and left without paying. The clerk described the car as a red Dodge Neon with a white Hawaiian lei hanging over the rear view mirror.
  Gasoline prices exceeded $1.90 per gallon in many areas of the Tri-Cities this spring.
  According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), oil demand for North America jumped by over one billion barrels per day between the second fiscal quarter of 2003 and the third fiscal quarter of 2004 ending March 31, 2004.
  The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) boosted May crude supply by 680,000 barrels to 26.1 million barrels per day. OPEC agreed to raise production targets by two million barrels per day to 25.5 million barrels per day by July and by a further increase of 500,000 barrels per day by August. Actual June physical supplies are likely to increase further from May.
  Crude oil prices peaked on June 1 with West Texas Intermediate reaching above $42 a barrel. The rally was fueled by security concerns and uncertainty surrounding OPEC's meeting in Beirut. Gasoline prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange dropped 20 percent from their May peak on increased runs and imports as well as perceptions of lower U.S. gasoline demand growth.
  With the Iraqi government poised to take over from U.S.-led occupation forces on June 30, the stability of that country's oil supply has already been affected by political insurgents who continue to battle American military forces. Iraqi oil production fell 210,000 to 2.1 million barrels per day in May as export flows were disrupted by insurgent attacks.
  World oil demand growth for 2004 has been revised higher, by 360,000 barrels a day to 2.3 million barrels a day. New March data from IEA shows oil demand surged in Brazil and India, helping to lift world growth in the first quarter by more than 340,000 barrels used per day. The second quarter growth estimate has been revised upwards by 900,000 to 3.5 million barrels a day.