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Gas prices too high to register - literally

Stations with older pumps to price by half-gallon

HARRISBURG, Pa. - With gas prices going over $4 a gallon in some areas of Pennsylvania, it's not just a problem for consumers.

Some older gas pumps can't display a price above $3.99. So, Pennsylvania is joining other states in allowing gas stations with those older pumps to temporarily have the pump set to the price for half a gallon of gas, Gov. Rendell's office announced yesterday.

"Most retail fuel stations in Pennsylvania can display per-gallon prices over $4, but we will accommodate those that cannot, allowing business to continue and ensuring consumers get what they pay for," Rendell said in a statement.

The price on the pump is multiplied by two before the customer pays. The price of a full gallon must be on the sign drivers see from the street.

The state estimates that fewer than 500 gas pumps statewide have this problem, Rendell's office said. To get permission for half-gallon pricing, gas stations must order an upgrade kit that will allow the pump to display and compute unit prices of $4 per gallon and higher.

Half-gallon pricing was in widespread use decades ago, when the price of gas went above $1 for the first time.

The daily Mid-Atlantic AAA survey shows that regular unleaded gasoline was selling above $4 per gallon yesterday morning from at least 45 stations in the five-county Philadelphia area.

The highest was $4.299 at a Lukoil station in New Hope, Bucks County, but AAA said that figure and the prices at other stations likely will change throughout the day and weekend.

AAA has found prices in excess of $4 gallon as average in seven states - Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan and New York, spokeswoman Catherine Rossi said.

The highest price is in Alaska, where gas is averaging a $4.18 gallon, Rossi said. *