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Hold the Carbon: Cafeterias Focus on Green Fare

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From NPR news, it's Day to Day. $3.86 a gallon, that's what I paid two days ago. Gasoline is now over four dollars in some places. Crude oil prices today went past 118 dollars-a-barrel for the first time, probably for not the last. Marketplace's Bob Moon joins us. Bob, somehow I thought 100 dollars a barrel, OK. Everything's going to be stable for a while, but no, it just keeps going higher.

BOB MOON: No, it's just keeps going and going and going sort of like that Energizer bunny. There's something of a debate about what's causing all of this. Some analysts say it's supply concerns. We've had reports in the past few days of pipelines being blown up in the Niger delta by a Nigerian rebel group. There's been a drop of output from Mexico's oil fields, and there is word that China's oil demand is on the rise. But some say, a big part of the problem is the sagging value of the dollar, which just keeps sliding. Since dollars are the main way people pay for oil, as they become less valuable, the oil producers want more of them.

But I spoke to Tom Kloza, who is chief analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, and he says the dollar only accounts for some of this. He points out that the dollar dropped a little over 10 percent last year, but, at the same time, the oil prices were up around 50 percent. Kloza tells me he is convinced that most of the price rise is speculators entering the crude oil market.

Mr. TOM KLOZA (Chief Analyst, Oil Price Information Service): This is really about a euphoria in commodities, and it's really driving money into all sorts of commodities, metals, oil, grains, or whatever. Oil just tends to be the most conspicuous one because, when money flows into crude oil and crude oil futures and all these other financial instruments, it manifests itself very quickly in terms of the placards you see on the road side where it says $3.90 a gallon.

MOON: And Alex, it's even showing up in diesel-fuel prices. They've now reached a nationwide average of $4.20 a gallon. That compared to $2.93 just a year ago.

CHADWICK: Do you see signs - is anyone measuring any signs that consumers are saying OK, I'm going to stop driving? Or how could we cut back?

MOON: There are some signs. I asked Tom Kloza about that, and he says that we're way past where the tipping point has been before.

Mr. KLOZA: We've already crossed the annoyance threshold. We crossed that a while ago. Now, I think we're looking at crossing into the threshold where people will really start to be very,very active in reducing their consumption right now.

MOON: And the U.S. Energy Department actually says demand for gasoline here in the U.S. is now on track to see the first annual drop in consumption in 17 years.

CHADWICK: But the other question is, who's making all the money on this gasoline sales? Is it my corner station where I get the gas?

MOON: Kloza says absolutely not. That, as you get further from the wellhead, people make less and less money. And a lot of those stations across the country are, literally, on the nice edge of bankruptcy right now, and they are seeing business actually go down.

CHADWICK: Bob Moon of Public Radio's daily business show, Marketplace. Bob, thank you.

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