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Gas prices on slow slide

Analyst says $4-a-gallon gas expected within a few weeks

Posted: October 19, 2012 6:12 p.m.
Updated: October 19, 2012 6:12 p.m.
 

The state average price of regular unleaded gasoline fell 15.7 cents a gallon by Friday compared to last week’s record $4.671 per gallon, and analysts expect prices to drop for another few weeks before leveling out.

“Wholesale prices took a nosedive last week and a bigger nosedive on Wednesday,” said Marie Montgomery Nordhues of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

At the pump, prices in the Santa Clarita Valley varied between $4.41 and $4.65 per gallon on Friday, down from $4.59 to $4.61 last week for self-serve regular unleaded gas, according to online gas-price tracking service GasBuddy.com.

“We’ve see some double digit weekly drops — at least 10 cents a week — and we hope for more,” Montgomery Nordhues said of prices in the Southern California region.

The California average stood at $4.514 a gallon on Friday, a 13.1 cent decrease from last Friday, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

“Not every region in the nation moves in the same direction, but California has predominantly been moving lower,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

“(Wholesale prices) have fallen about $1.40 from where they were a week and a half ago when they hit their peak.”

Cheaper wholesale prices are a result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s order for an early transition to the state’s winter-grade supply of gasoline to alleviate shortages, Montgomery Nordhues said.

As the price of crude oil by the barrel drops, many gas stations are able to lower prices at the pump, and the next shipment of gasoline will again arrive at a lower price, Montgomery Nordhues said.

“The trend is very encouraging. I think we are going to see some individual stations posting below $4.00 pretty quickly,” she said.

Although some individual stations in Southern California have dropped to between $4.10 and $4.20 per gallon, but average prices have been higher overall, she said.

“They could definitely go down more quickly, but as we know the prices hardly ever go down as fast as they increase,” she said.

California drivers saw a hard spike in gasoline prices two weeks ago because California refineries are more sensitive to a hit in supply, Montgomery Nordhues said.

“The refineries are fewer in number than they used to be. When one of them has a problem, then we feel it pretty quickly,” she said.

It is difficult for California to seek relief from refineries in other states because California uses a “boutique,” or specific, blend of gasoline, Montgomery Nordhues said.

“We just don’t have a lot of options, and there’s not as much competition as a result,” Montgomery Nordhues said.
To fight the rise in gas prices, drivers should take advantage of websites and apps that provide up-to-the-moment local gas prices, she said.


Saugus resident Rob Shapiro, 24, occasionally uses the GasBuddy.com app on his phone, but he says he’s resigned to “just paying for it.”

“I just fill up wherever,” said Shapiro, driving a Dodge Durango, as he gassed up Friday at the corner of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard. “I try not to pay attention because it’s too high.”

Commuter Basel Kashlah’s cost per tank increased $10 in the past month, he said, and he doesn’t expect relief soon.

“I don’t know if it’s the demand or the spending or the habits, but I expect it to go up,” Kashlah said at the same gas station.

“Sometimes it’s hard to swallow the fact that we have to pay for what the oil companies are going through,” said Rose Fernandez, a Valencia resident.

Fernandez doesn’t often rely on gas price websites to check prices before filling up.

“I have my favorite gas stations, which are typically a good 8 to 10 cents cheaper,” she said.

“I would really encourage drivers to continue to shop around and be really aggressive,” Montgomery Nordhues said. “That’s going to put a lot of downward pressure on the prices. That’s the defense that consumers have.”

 

 

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