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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Feb. 23) – The price of unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel will go up at all French Polynesia's service stations on March 1 – the second hike in five months.

The Council of Ministers decided Wednesday to increase the price of unleaded gasoline by 2 French Pacific francs from 143 to 145 French Pacific francs per liter [from US$5.60 to US$5.68 per gallon].

The price of diesel fuel will go up 7 French Pacific francs from 114 to 121 French Pacific francs per liter [from US$4.47 to US$4.73 per gallon].

The Temaru government said the price hikes take into account successive increases in the price of a barrel of crude oil. The hikes also continue to reduce the price difference between gasoline and diesel fuel.

French Polynesia's new fuel prices compared with France's equivalent present prices of 147 French Pacific francs for unleaded gasoline (2 French Pacific francs more than Tahiti's new price) and 123 French Pacific francs for diesel fuel (2 more French Pacific francs than Tahiti's new price), the government said.

Converted to U.S. gallons, the price of gasoline will increase to US$5.68 a gallon, while the price of diesel fuel will go up to US$4.73 a gallon.

That compares with an average retail price for U.S. gasoline of US$2.24 a gallon, down about 2 cents over the past week, the Energy Information Administration's latest survey indicated Wednesday. But prices are still 34 cents higher in the U.S. than a year ago.

The drop in U.S. pump prices reflects the recent fall in crude-oil prices, which account for about half the cost of making gasoline. However, light, sweet crude for March delivery gained US$1.22 to settle at US$61.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday. The exchange's price for gasoline futures slid by 2.69 cents to finish at US$1.48 per gallon.

In Tahiti, the last time the fuel prices went up was in September, when the Council of Ministers approved a 15 French Pacific franc hike in both unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel. That was the first change in fuel prices since May 1, 2004, when the previous Flosse government lowered the price of gasoline by 2 French Pacific francs and lowered the price of diesel fuel 6 French Pacific francs.

Those reductions occurred just before the May 23, 2004, French Polynesia Assembly elections that brought Oscar Temaru to power as president.

French Polynesia's three oil companies—Mobil, Shell and Total—all charge the same fuel prices at their service stations since only the government can decide whether prices should go up or down.

February 27, 2006

Tahitipresse: http://www.tahitipresse.pf/index.cfm?lang=2

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