<i>CSNews</i> Office Remains Closed

Convenience Store News headquarters in New York remained closed today as rescue workers and volunteers from around the country continue to sift through the rubble that once was the World Trade Center.

Tuesday devastating blasts, which saw two hijacked airplanes crash into the World Trade Center's famed "twin towers," caused four landmark buildings in New York City to crumble beneath massive flames and oppressive heat. The search for survivors is expected to continue for days, though the hope of finding anyone alive grows dim as precious hours tick away.

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said there could be as many as 10,000 to 15,000 casualties. The mayor confirmed yesterday that city officials requested 6,000 additional body bags to transport victims to one of several morgues set up through out the city and New Jersey.

Gas Prices Eyed
Some U.S. state officials vowed yesterday to crack down on price gouging at gasoline pumps after prices spiked to $5 or more a gallon in places in the aftermath of the devastating attacks in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

The national average price of unleaded gasoline was $1.538 a gallon on Monday, the day before the attacks.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said there is no indication of shortages that should justify price spikes to $5 a gallon or more.

"There's been no supply disruption to justify such prices," Abraham said. At a news conference in Washington yesterday Abraham also said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lifted summer clean-air gasoline requirements to avert any possible shortage of supplies. The standards, imposed to ease air pollution problems during the summer, had been scheduled to expire on Saturday.

Gas prices soared Tuesday on fears of shortages, prompting skirmishes at stations in several states as motorists raced to get to the pump first. But gas suppliers quickly backed off high prices Wednesday, as many states said they would investigate reports of gouging, according to the Associated Press. In Arkansas, the attorney general's office was instructing all its investigators to work on nothing but gouging complaints.

"We made a dumb decision," Todd Van Zeeland, owner of a gasoline distributor in Little Chute, Wis., told the Associated Press. He raised the price of regular unleaded gasoline from $1.69 a gallon to $2.95 on Tuesday. He said he would donate the profits to the American Red Cross.

Earlier, Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum had called on consumers to boycott gas stations that dramatically raised their gas prices and said officials would investigate if there was any collusion.

"Our intention was not to gouge customers or profit from the tragedy. We just wanted to control traffic and prevent a run on our pumps," Van Zeeland said.

Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan sued the owner of 13 Illinois convenience stores after he claimed it raised prices to as high as $5 a gallon, the report said. "I think it's despicable. Now they're going to have to pay the price," Ryan said at a news conference.

In the lawsuit, Ryan said the stations, owned by Iowa-based Casey's General Store Inc., were selling gas at $1.68 a gallon Monday morning but raised their prices to as much as $5 a gallon after the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, the Associated Press reported.

Casey's spokesman Jim Shaffer told the Associated Press the company will offer refunds to people who paid the high prices at 20 stores in Illinois. He said the prices varied from store to store.

The R and L Texaco in Oklahoma City increased the price of unleaded gasoline to $5 a gallon after a supplier told the owner it was unclear when the next shipment would be available and at what price. But owner Ralph Pfenninger said he would be offering refunds, the report said.

Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore said a state probe into price gouging may be expanded nationally even as some gasoline retailers rescind price increases that had motorists up in arms. Moore said that he received more than 2,000 complaints from angry motorists since Tuesday.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. and London-based BP Plc, the nation's two largest oil companies, sought to calm motorists, urging them to refrain from stockpiling gasoline to avoid artificial runouts. The companies said they had no immediate plans to raise prices.
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