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Gas prices reaching record

High of $4.89 per gallon reported in the Santa Clarita Valley

Posted: October 6, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 6, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Adrian Rivera changes the fuel price sign outside the Arco station on Pico Canyon Road and Marriott Way in Stevenson Ranch on Friday.

 

The average price of regular, unleaded gasoline shot up 17 cents a gallon from Thursday to Friday and stood at a statewide average of $4.48 a gallon Friday, with prices as high as $4.89 reported in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The average price in Los Angeles County was at $4.53 a gallon for regular unleaded Friday. That’s just 9 cents below the highest-ever average price, which was recorded in June 2008.

The latest price increases continued a weeklong trend in California that has seen the price of regular, unleaded gasoline increase by about 35 cents a gallon, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

GasBuddy.com shows the increase as even larger. The online service says gas in and around Los Angeles now costs an average of $4.60 a gallon, a 46-cent increase over a week ago.

Either way, California’s gas prices have surpassed Hawaii’s as the highest in the country.

A web of refinery and transmission problems is to blame, analysts said. The situation is compounded by a pollution law that requires a special blend of cleaner-burning gasoline from April to October, said Denton Cinquegrana, executive editor of the Oil Price Information Service, which helps AAA compile its price survey.

“We use the phrase ‘the perfect storm,’ and you know what, this current one makes those other perfect storms look like a drizzle. I don’t want to scare anyone, but this is a big problem,” Cinquegrana said. “Run-outs are happening left and right.”

No Santa Clarita Valley gas stations reported running out of gas Friday, but motorists were lined up to fuel their vehicles at Costco in Canyon Country and Sam’s Club in Saugus, the two valley locations with the cheapest gas prices.

Some lower-priced stations elsewhere in the Los Angeles area were out of gas as early as Thursday.

Still, there was a little good news Friday. Exxon Mobil Corp. said a refinery in Torrance returned to normal operations Friday after a power failure Monday disrupted production for most of the week.

State officials acknowledged that reduced supplies triggered a price spike but with the refinery coming back online, prices should start falling, they said.

“The wholesale market appears to have peaked and is heading down,” said Alison ApRoberts, a spokeswoman for the California Energy Commission. “Because it takes a little while for the price reductions to funnel through the system, consumers at the pumps should start to see some declines over the next week.”

Gasoline inventories in California, however, are still at their lowest point in more than 10 years, a situation made worse by the mandate for the special summer gasoline blend. Few refineries outside the state can make it, meaning there are few outside sources to draw from for help, Cinquegrana said.

But the California Energy Commission determined the state has plenty of gasoline to meet consumer demand and says prices at the pump should start to fall next week.

Gil Duran, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, said in an email that his office is “monitoring the situation closely.”

Patrick DeHaan, an analyst for Gasbuddy.com, wrote that gasoline spot prices, or the prices stations pay for the wholesale gasoline they resell to the public, have fallen recently. This usually means prices for consumers will begin to fall as well.

But DeHaan wrote that this decrease in price will likely come after another few days of price increases.

Still, prices are likely to remain high until winter-grade gasoline can be sold in November.

But that doesn’t mean immediate relief at the pump, said Ron Appel, president of the Gardena-based United Oil.

“Prices will probably be high until the November (winter-grade) gas comes in,” Appel said.

Saugus resident Carolyn Clement, filling up her car at a Mobil station Friday, said the $4.69 a gallon she was paying was the most expensive gas she has ever purchased.

“I wish I had filled up yesterday,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

lmoney@the-signal.com

661-287-5525

 

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