SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Californians woke up to a shock Friday as overnight gasoline prices jumped by as much as 20 cents a gallon in some areas, ending a week of soaring costs that saw some stations close and others charge record prices.
The average price of regular gas across the state was nearly $4.49 a gallon, the highest in the nation, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report.
In Southern California, the price jumped 20 cents a gallon overnight to $4.53 in Ventura. And in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area prices went up 19 cents to nearly $4.54. And it wasn't any better to the north, as a gallon of regular gas in San Francisco averaged nearly $4.60.
In many areas, prices have jumped 40 cents in a week as refinery problems have created shortages and helped send wholesale prices soaring. Some stations ran out of gas and shut down Thursday rather than pay those costs.
Even Costco, the giant discount store chain that sells large volumes of gas, decided to close some stations, the Los Angeles Times (lat.ms/OGwEV2) reported.
"We do not know when we will be resupplied," read a sign at one Southern California Costco, according to the Times.
Other gas stations charged more than $5 a gallon. The Low-P station in Calabasas charged $5.69 Thursday. The pumps bore hand-written signs reading: "We are sorry, it is not our fault," the Times said.
While gas prices have spiked around the nation, refinery outages and pipeline problems have added to woes in California.
Among the recent disruptions, an Aug. 6 fire at a Chevron Corp. refinery in Richmond left one of the region's largest refineries producing at a reduced capacity. A power failure in Southern California has affected an Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery, and a Chevron pipeline that moves crude to Northern California also was shut down.
The national average for gas is about $3.79 a gallon, the highest ever for this time of year. However, gas prices in many states have started decreasing, which is typical for October.
But in California, gasoline inventories are the lowest in more than 10 years — a situation made worse by the state's strict pollution limits that require a special blend of cleaner-burning gasoline during hot summer months.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, said he is seeing the highest prices in the state around Los Angeles, where on Thursday at least five stations have crossed the $5 a gallon mark, including $5.29 in Burbank and $5.11 in Norwalk.
Prices will keep rising, he says, because in the past week wholesale gasoline prices have jumped $1 a gallon, but average retail prices have increased only 30 cents.
"This is one of the easiest forecasts: Retail prices are going to skyrocket," DeHaan said.
Well, the silver lining in this cloud is that the Pacific Surfliner should finally break its year long ridership decline. In addition to Amtrak California routes and the various California commuter rail lines, the Cascades should also see a bumper month as they also serve a PADD V state, which means they are mostly dependent on California refineries and oil will not be readily available from the rest of the country (due to lack of pipelines; with oil railcars busy serving Bakken, even that is likely not available as an option, even if formulation waivers were available).
Unfortunately, this is going to really screw with California's economy and employment situation in a rather bad way. We don't have the infrastructure necessary in order for many to switch away from use of a personal automobile to mass transit and we won't for sometime. Hopefully it will change the political attitudes such that bus service, at the very least, will increase instead of the cutbacks it has largely seen since the recession, as well as increase support for rail, BRT, electrification and other mass transit projects, but I'm sufficiently cynical, or just too used to reading the OC Register, to really expect terribly much.
I do hope that the authors of the Fuel Tax Swap, which lowered the sales tax rate on gasoline in exchange for a higher flat excise rate, are kicking themselves for the amount of revenue, dedicated to public transit as it happened, was lost thanks to it.