As gas prices in California hit record levels for the fourth day today, with the average price of regular unleaded gas at $4.671 per gallon, analysts say the prices should stabilize as a shutdown refinery returns to production and Gov. Jerry Brown releases a winter-blend gasoline early.
But Californians are already upset with the hit to their wallets in the past week. Gas prices have skyrocketed 52 cents per gallon in Los Angeles, with the most expensive gas in Long Beach at $6.65 per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.
For Won Choy, a senior at Cal State University, Northridge, high gas prices mean a change to her daily schedule.
“I’m involved with a lot of the non-profits that are all based in downtown L.A., and I used to drive back and forth, but now I have to try to cram in everything in one day,” Choy said. While she used to make the 50-mile round trip drive four times a week, she now only treks out once or twice a week, often missing meetings and events.
On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown took emergency steps to bring down the prices by directing smog regulators to allow the sale and production of a winter-blend gasoline three weeks early. The gas is considered less environment-friendly during warm weather.
Analysts say the the move would increase fuel supplies and reduce gas prices by 15 to 20 cents per gallon in the next few days. But some question what took the governor so long to act.
"We had been predicting since early last week that California was about to face a potentially record-breaking spike in fuel prices," Patrick DeHaan, senior energy analyst for GasBuddy.com, told the Los Angeles Times.
"What was the governor doing on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before finally deciding to take action Sunday?” DeHaan asked.
State Sen. Diane Feinstein claims the gas price spike is the result of “an illegal short squeeze” by the California gasoline market and called for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate if there was any “malicious and manipulative trading activity.”
But most place the blame on a power outage at a Southern California refinery last Monday. The Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery in Torrance went back on line Friday, but the effects have yet to be felt. Also a fire at a Chevron Corp. refinery in Northern California last August has forced it to run at reduced capacity, and a pipeline transporting oil from Kern County to the San Francisco Bay area was closed because of contamination.
Still, Angelenos are the ones forced to deal with the high prices for gas. “Before I would fill up my car until it was full, but now I get gas little by little,” Choy said. “I try not to go out as much.”