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STUTTGART, Germany - Most fuel prices sold through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service will drop by about 10 cents per gallon starting Saturday, marking the first major reprieve this year.

Regular unleaded in Germany will be priced at $4.16 per gallon, midgrade at $4.29, and premium at $4.41. Diesel is dropping four cents per gallon to $5.09. The United Kingdom will also see approximately 10-cent drops.

In the Netherlands, unleaded fuel is decreasing by 29 cents per gallon, diesel by 34 cents.

The decreases mirror a drop in average U.S. prices at the pump. According to the Department of Energy, the average price of regular unleaded on Monday fell 11 cents per gallon to $3.96.

The prices will apply for one week, after which they will be adjusted again to reflect prices in the United States, according to Lt. Col. David Konop, a spokesman for AAFES, which operates the fuel-sales system for Defense Department personnel in much of Europe.

In Stuttgart, headquarters of the U.S. European and Africa commands, motorists said the decrease was a welcome break but will not cause them to alter their lifestyles drastically. Many had previously adjusted to higher prices.

"For local stuff I don't drive as much; I'll get on a train," said Spc. Jeremiah Deford of the 554th Military Police Company. "I'll take the (free garrison) bus from Panzer (Casern) to Patch (Barracks) to do grocery shopping."

"I've definitely consolidated trips and don't drive as often," said Susan Cooper, a military spouse with two children. "My kids take the bus whenever they need to go to the Hub (a teen hangout at Patch Barracks) or to a movie."

For drivers in Germany using the new AAFES fuel rationing card, the price decreases will be automatically applied starting Saturday at filling stations on post and at Esso stations on the German economy.

The average price of fuel in the United States, on which AAFES' prices are based, has skyrocketed since the start of the year, increasing from $3.03 per gallon for all grades in February to $4.13 by the end of June, according to the Department of Energy.

For some, this year's increase has been an annoyance they simply cannot get around.

"You do quite a bit of driving when you live out here," said Joan Strayer, who lives at Robinson Barracks, which is located on the opposite side of city from most of Stuttgart's military facilities.

"It's a necessity," Strayer said. "I haven't noticed us cutting down. We have a hybrid for our other car and that helps."

Kate Fuller said she and her husband, a Marine Corps captain, drove to Paris after they first arrived in Germany. At $125 per tank, which is what it cost them to fill up in France, Fuller said those road trips will be few and far between.

Buying fuel through AAFES costs less than half of what it does on the European economy. The 10-cent decrease was welcomed, but drivers such as Deford aren't counting on further price cuts.

"It's going to go up again," Deford predicted. "We'll never see $2 a gallon again. I'd be happy to see $3."


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