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It was surely a sign of the times the other day when we filled up for a mere $40 at a local gas station. Talk is flurrying here and there about the price of gas these days, as well as efforts to protect consumers from gouging, although our local steady rise isn't linked directly to Katrina's destruction. Coughing up this much dough to put in the tank made us desperately nostalgic for the summer of 1999, when we remember the big news in gas prices being more like "how low can you go?" That was back when gas was hovering at a buck a gallon...one third of what we're paying these days. LAist tracks the average price over in our sidebar, but if you're looking to shop around, check out Los Angeles Gas Prices' site, and hopefully you can find a way to fill up your tank without having to empty all your pockets. We've got our eye on gas-reliant industries like airlines and the MTA to see if the current gas crisis will force fares to go up, too.