Utah's gasoline supply amid the Persian Gulf crisis is "stable but vulnerable" to future events in the Middle East, says Utah Energy Office Director Richard Anderson.

"If there is a shooting conflict or anything, there will be a run on crude from the commercial side and the jobbers," Anderson said. "Then we'll find that gasoline along the Wasatch Front is very tight."While Utah is not dependent upon oil from the Mideast, the Rocky Mountain area petroleum refined here is still priced on an international market, he told the Wasatch Front Economic Forum.

If supplies become short in refineries along the Gulf of Mexico, Utah conceivably could start exporting oil to the gulf or Midwest. That would push prices higher still.

Oil was selling for more than $40 a barrel Friday, and retail prices along the Wasatch Front have skyrocketed in the past two days by as much as 10 cents a gallon.

The real problem, however, is not the price of oil and gasoline, Anderson said.

He then explained gasoline prices began rising months before the invasion of Kuwait, when they were artificially low. The energy office calculates that they are at reasonable levels now, given the price of oil.

High gas prices spark interest in fuel efficiency, alternative fuels and conservation, Anderson said.

Indeed, on Friday Rep. James Hansen joined others in introducing the Comprehensive Energy Self-Sufficiency Act, designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Among the bill's provisions are a series of tax incentives to encourage conservation and domestic energy production.