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The price of gasoline and diesel fuel sold through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service in Europe is going down for the first time in five months.

The decrease — between 12 and 27 cents a gallon depending on fuel type — still leaves the price at the pump some 36 cents a gallon higher than a year ago.

Beginning Thursday, AAFES fuel prices in Germany, for instance, will range from $2.518 a gallon for regular to $2.852 a gallon for diesel. Last December, regular cost $2.164 a gallon.

December’s price for regular, however, is 26½ cents less per gallon than it was in November.

“That’s a good thing,” said Debbie Byerly, AAFES spokeswoman.

AAFES gas prices are based on a monthly average throughout the United States tallied by the Department of Energy, usually of the four weeks prior. Byerly said AAFES then adds an average 16 cents per gallon to cover the extra cost of providing gas overseas, including administering the gas coupon program.

Although gas prices vary widely among states, the average price has been dropping and some U.S. consumers in the past few days were able to find gas for less than $2 a gallon. In the San Diego area, for example, gasoline prices dropped for the seventh consecutive week, and decreases are expected to continue for the rest of 2005, according to a news report citing the Automobile Club of Southern California.

The average self-serve price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was $2.515 in San Diego County Thursday, 37 cents less than last month and 20 cents more than at this time last year.

And USA Today, citing the Oil Price Information Service, reported U.S. gas prices have declined 86 cents from a Labor Day high of $3.06 a gallon for regular to the current national average of $2.20.

AAFES customers were paying less for gas than many U.S. customers in October and November. From Aug. 29 to Sept. 5 — just after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi — the national U.S. average jumped from $2.653 to $3.117. But the October AAFES price in Germany was $2.715 for regular unleaded and $2.906 for super plus unleaded.

Because prices were fluctuating so much, AAFES officials said the exchange service departed from its usual averaging policy to set October and November prices, using instead an average U.S. gas price before Katrina hit.

Now that prices are settling down, AAFES said it is returning to the usual formula.

A crazy year at the pump

Here’s how the price of regular unleaded gas has changed for AAFES customers in Germany during 2005.

January: $2.046February: $1.974March: $2.073April: $2.190May: $2.392June: $2.357July: $2.306August: $2.455September: $2.635October: $2.715November: $ 2.783December: $ 2.518December rates

Army and Air Force Exchange Services’ overseas fuel prices for December:

Germany

Unleaded: $ 2.518Super unleaded: $2.625Super plus unleaded: $2.730Diesel: $2.852Netherlands

Super unleaded: $2.625Super plus unleaded: $2.730Diesel: $2.852United Kingdom

Super unleaded: $2.572Diesel: $2.798Azores

Super unleaded: $2.679Turkey

Super Unleaded: $2.700Diesel: $3.020AAFES news release

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