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Citing customer demand, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service has decided to calculate its gasoline prices each week starting in February.

“Feedback from military families assigned overseas made it clear that they wanted to see greater immediacy than month-to-month frequency was capable of delivering,” said Lt. Col. Dean Thurmond, AAFES’ chief of communications, in a news release issued Friday. “Changing pump and coupon prices every seven days should provide prices that are more closely aligned to those in the States and help reduce the issues monthly pricing tended to create.”

The much-criticized policy to change prices once a month based on stateside prices, which has been in effect since 2001, frequently results in huge differences between what drivers in the U.S. pay for gas and what Americans in Europe pay.

For example, on Sept. 25, 2006, the cost of AAFES’ regular gas in Germany was 77 cents higher than the U.S. national average. On Sept. 12, 2005, Americans in Germany were paying 31 cents less per gallon than their stateside counterparts.

Less than two weeks before, Americans in Germany were paying 77 cents more for gas than their American counterparts,AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey said the exchange’s gas pricing policy didn’t allow for midmonth changes. As a result, Americans in Germany continued to pay $3.15 for a gallon of regular gas as stateside Americans paid less than $2.38.

No longer will this be the case — the policy change to adjust prices every week should eliminate much of this disparity.

Antsey said the way the agency prices its gasoline — taking the U.S. Department of Energy’s average price, subtracting the built-in dispensing costs and adding AAFES’ costs — isn't changing. So customers shouldn’t expect to see lower or higher prices at the pump because of the change. In fact, AAFES won’t know what it will charge customers the first week of February until the DOE average is posted Monday.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline posted online (www.eia.doe.gov/) for the week of Jan. 22 is $2.165, down from $2.221 the week before and $2.306 a week earlier. AAFES subtracts the distribution costs built into that price and adds its own distribution fees. That amount varies by country, ranging, for example, from 16.58 cents a gallon in Germany, to 6.16 cents in Guam.

Prices will change every Saturday if the DOE average changes, Antsey said. The prices will be changed at midnight local time, so the pumps will reflect the new numbers when stations open Saturday. At 24-hour operations, Antsey said, the price could vary from 11:59 p.m. Friday to 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

He said a November survey conducted by AAFES that asked about its pricing policies contributed to the change as did other feedback.

A quick survey Friday afternoon at the pumps found mixed reviews of the new pricing policy.

At Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany, Army spouse Michelle Briggs said she supports the move.

“We seem to miss out on the lower prices,” she said.

First Lt. Jason Lunsford of the 47th Forward Support Battalion said he thought a weekly average was “a bit smarter” on the part of AAFES.

“It'll be cheaper later on,” he said.

“Gas here is much more expensive anyway,” said Katja Lunsford, his wife. “But AAFES gas is always more expensive, even in the States.”

"It really doesn't matter to me," said Staff Sgt. Mark Dalton, 34, of the 272nd Military Police Company, as he was filling up his Toyota sedan at the Warner Barracks gas station in Bamberg, Germany.

Also the owner of a BMW and a Dodge Durango, Dalton said he buys gas at least twice a month, adding, “whether [prices change] weekly or monthly, it’s just another chance to maybe get a higher price, or maybe get a lower price.”

Reporters Matt Millham, Geoff Ziezulewicz and Mark St.Clair contributed to this report.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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