Gas prices begin to fall

Gas prices slowly fell by Friday following another week of soaring fuel costs and supply shortages.

Damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita still left about 20 percent of U.S. refining capacity out of action as late as Friday, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Throughout the week, metro Atlanta BP, QuikTrip and Chevron stations ran out fuel. A Texaco in Lawrenceville was without gas for more than five days. Prices topped $3 a gallon for unleaded at many locations.

Natural gas prices

expected to climb

Meanwhile, attention shifted to problems with another type of fuel - natural gas.

Hit hard by rising natural gas prices, U.S. manufacturers say the nation needs to consider expanding its access to oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. The National Association of Manufacturers said on Wednesday it supports the U.S. House Resources Committee plan to increase energy supplies by allowing new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Natural gas prices among industrial users are forecast to climb from about $9 per thousand cubic feet last winter to about $12 in the first quarter of 2006 in the South Atlantic region including Georgia, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Norcross-based Rock-Tenn Co., a maker of packaging for all types of consumer products, said the high natural gas costs are affecting its paperboard division. The company said it is forced to increase prices to its paperboard customers as a result.

Rock-Tenn shuts

down carton plant

Rock-Tenn said rising natural gas prices had nothing to do with shutting down a Marshville, N.C., folding carton plant early next year. Total closing costs are expected to total $4.6 million.

Although Rock-Tenn is dealing with the effects of skyrocketing energy prices, the Marshville shutdown stems from Rock-Tenn operating three folding carton plants in a small geographic area, the company said. Rock-Tenn will transfer the majority of the Marshville plant's production to other facilities in Marion and McDowell, N.C.

Rock-Tenn, headquartered at 504 Thrasher St. in Norcross, has nearly 8,270 employees.

New homes going in along Buford Highway

The city of Norcross is about to do something it hasn't been asked to do in 31 years - issue a building permit for new homes along Buford Highway. It's significant because sections of the highway have been in commercial decline for years. The city hopes the new residential project - 21 townhomes - signals more developers will continue to add housing within walking distance of downtown and the historic district.

Doug Sams can be reached via e-mail at doug.sams@gwinnettdailypost.com .