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Gas prices start to fall

Posted: October 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 11, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

By Luke Money

Signal Staff Writer

 

After a series of record-breaking increases, California’s gas prices have started to decrease.

The state hit an average price of $4.671 Tuesday for regular unleaded, a new high, before falling overnight to $4.666 on Wednesday, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Despite the decreases, the cheapest gas in Santa Clarita was still hovering around $4.59 to $4.61 a gallon on Wednesday, according to GasBuddy.com.

This decrease came after Gov. Jerry Brown issued an order to the California Air Resources Board to speed the state’s transition to winter-grade gasoline to help alleviate the state’s supply issues. That transition generally takes place at the end of the month. California’s supply of refined gasoline has been restricted for the past several months due to a variety of pipeline and refinery outages and interruptions.

Brown’s order could increase the available supply of refined gasoline in California by 8 to 10 percent, according to Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with GasBuddy.com. But DeHaan said most of the gasoline price decreases will be unrelated to the order.

“(The order) is not going to hurt, but it’s not going to be the magic bullet to bring prices down further,” DeHaan said.

At least one of the state’s lingering outages will continue into the immediate future. Chevron spokesman Derek Jansen confirmed an earlier report that the crude unit component of Chevron’s refinery in Richmond will remain offline for at least the rest of the year. The approximately 240,000-barrel capacity facility has been operating at a reduced output since an Aug. 6 fire.

The refinery operating at limited capacity should not jeopardize the statewide supply of refined gasoline, Jansen said.

“The market continues to see an adequate supply of gasoline to meet consumers’ needs,” he said.

Marie Montgomery Nordhues, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, said any decrease in the state’s gas supply should have less of an effect on prices in the winter, when demand for gasoline is lower. Montgomery Nordhues also said she was confident that other refineries could make up for any loss of production at the Richmond facility.

“If there was any time of year they could do it, it would probably be now,” she said.

That sentiment is shared by Rob Schlichting, a spokesman for the California Energy Commission. Longer-term outages often have little long-term effect on price, since the market adjusts to compensate for any loss in production, Schlichting said.

The statewide average price will eventually settle somewhere in the range of $3.85 to $4.20 a gallon, which is still higher than he originally thought, DeHaan said.

“Those folks hoping for $3-a-gallon gas are going to be disappointed,” DeHaan predicted.

For local prices visit www.the-signal.com/gasprices.Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

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