Saturday, February 12, 2011; A12

U.S. prices hit record high for time of year

U.S. gasoline prices have jumped to the highest levels ever for this time of year. The national average hit $3.127 per gallon Friday, about 50 cents higher than a year ago.

The rise in gas pump prices has so far outpaced the increases seen in 2008. Gas prices began to soar in late February of that year, eventually hitting an all-time high of $4.11 per gallon in July.

While the dramatic price rise at the pump brings back memories of three years ago, when price spikes forced many drivers to join car pools and trade in gas-guzzling SUVs for more fuel-efficient cars, "it would be a mistake to think we're going to have that all over again," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service.

Gasoline has climbed since November because of a temporary combination of forces that pushed energy prices higher, including stronger oil demand from China, a frigid winter in the United States and tension in Egypt, Kloza said. The price of Brent crude, a key benchmark that influences U.S. gasoline prices, hit $100 a barrel in January for the first time since 2008.

"It was a perfect storm," Kloza said.

Kloza predicts that crude demand will slide in the United States by May as refineries slow fuel production while they switch to summer blends of gas.

- Associated Press

Post Co. to start customized news Web site

The Washington Post Co. is launching a news aggregation Web site called Trove that will allow users to customize the site to provide articles about subjects that most interest them.

The site, which will pull material from 30,000 feeds from 10,000 sources, will let readers add and subtract topic channels. The site's home page, which is divided into three sections, devotes the left-hand column to an "editor's choice" of articles selected by the site's editors.

"It's an experiment," said Post Co. chief executive Donald E. Graham. "In the course of the next year we will add a lot of interesting products and features. If some of those are well received, they might end up as part of washingtonpost.com or Slate." Slate is also owned by The Post Co.

The new site is partly the work of Vijay Ravindran, The Post Co.'s chief digital officer, who was previously an executive at Amazon.

The Trove project grew out of the Post's acquisition in July of iCurrent, an Internet-based news aggregator that allows readers to choose topics.

- Steven Mufson

F-35 engine likely to be spared in U.S. budget

House Republicans will not eliminate the alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in a $515 billion Pentagon budget for the current fiscal year that was due to be unveiled Friday, a lawmaker who oversees Pentagon funding said.

"The bill that we're going to deal with next week has the money in it," Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said of the engine being developed by General Electric and Britain's Rolls-Royce.

The Pentagon has tried for five years to cancel the alternative engine, but lawmakers have refused to kill the program.

Young's comments indicated that it will not fall victim to a Republican effort to slash about $60 billion from the budget in the fiscal year that began in October.

The House and the Democrat-controlled Senate must agree on spending levels before current funding runs out on March 4.

- Reuters

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