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California Gas prices continue rise

Monday hits all-time state high, but experts say a slow decline is coming

Posted: October 8, 2012 6:59 p.m.
Updated: October 8, 2012 6:59 p.m.
 

Gas prices reached a new high in California on Monday, but the numbers at the pumps are expected to begin dropping after Gov. Jerry Brown authorized the sale of winter-grade gasoline a few weeks early.

Gas prices rose a half-penny per gallon of regular unleaded by Monday morning, leading consumer groups to suspect the upward pricing trend is slowing down.

“It’s a pretty good indication that prices are tapping out,” said Marie Montgomery Nordhues, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. “We just beat the record set on Saturday at $4.69 a gallon, and now after midnight Sunday it’s almost $4.70,” she said Monday.

“Prices are expected to fall this week but not as fast as they rose,” she said.

“A number of stations had to buy their supply at a high price,” Montgomery Nordhues said. “So, until they get rid of that, it’s going to be difficult for them to lower prices because they’re going to be losing money on every gallon.”

In the Santa Clarita Valley, gas averaged in the $4.60s range for a gallon of unleaded regular early Monday evening, according to numbers on gasbuddy.com. They were as high as $4.89 a gallon at an off-brand-name station on Sierra Highway in Canyon Country and as low as $4.59 a gallon at several stations on the west side of the valley.

Brown on Sunday ordered the release of winter-blend gasoline, a dirtier blend of gasoline, to help slash record-high pump prices. Winter-blend gasoline is cheaper to produce, and the summer-blend mix — usually sold through the end of October — is in diminishing supply, contributing to the price increase.

The California Air Resources Board issued a regulatory advisory Monday saying California’s air quality is not expected to worsen appreciably following Brown’s move.

Sunday’s action was the first time since 2005 — when gas supplies were affected by refinery disruptions in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — that the air board has approved early conversion to winter-gas blends.

Both the Auto Club and Gasbuddy.com — a nationwide consumer watchdog group — are optimistic the move will spark a lowering trend in gas prices.

“It can’t hurt,” GasBuddy’s Gregg Laskoski said about the winter-blend release. “It’s definitely a good move. “I just wish the governor had gone to this move a week ago.”

GasBuddy.com operates LosAngelesGasPrices.com, which tracks gasoline prices at more than 140,000 gasoline stations in the United States and Canada.

As of Monday, it found that average retail gasoline prices in Los Angeles County had risen 50.5 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $4.70 going into Columbus Day.

The national average increased 0.6 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.80 per gallon, according to LosAngelesGasPrices.com.

“Thanks largely due to the situation in California, the national average rose slightly in the last week,” said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan.

“The good news for Californians is to expect relief this week.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on Monday asked the Department of Justice’s oil and gas price fraud working group to look into whether maintenance issues at refineries were being used as an excuse to drive up energy prices.

Boxer’s request came a day after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, saying residents need to be protected from “malicious trading schemes.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

jholt@the-signal.com
661-287-5527

 

 

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