Gas Prices

By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Posted: 05/04/15, 6:52 PM PDT |

Southern California gas prices are rising fast, and the rate of acceleration is far outpacing the national average.

Fueled by in-state refinery problems and rising crude oil prices, Los Angeles County’s average price for a gallon of regular hit $3.84 on Monday. That was up 35 cents from a week ago, while the national average rose just 9 cents, to $2.63 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.

L.A. County’s average price is now up 63 cents from a month ago, although that is still 47 cents below the year-ago average of $4.30 a gallon.

The Inland Empire is seeing similar price hikes. San Bernardino County’s average on Monday was $3.75 a gallon, up 34 cents from a week ago and 58 cents from a month earlier.

“Gasoline prices continue to be tugged upward by previous increases in crude oil prices,” said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s senior petroleum analyst. “The national average stands at its highest in nearly five months and has risen 20 days straight. West Coast refinery issues have continued to weigh on West Coast gasoline prices, which have easily risen the fastest in the nation for a second consecutive week, though the increase in prices will be scaled back considerably this week.”

A variety of factors should conspire to push prices down in the coming weeks, DeHaan noted.

“We’re already starting to see some relief, but the market takes time to react,” he said. “We look at multiple levels, including gas futures and spot pricing. Those numbers indicate that gas stations will soon be buying gas at lower prices. Then they will start to decrease their pricing, and that gets passed along to the consumer.”

Barring any new refinery issues, DeHaan figured gas prices in the L.A. County region would return to the low- to mid-$3-a-gallon range in the coming weeks.

California overall has been dogged by refinery problems. The ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance remains mostly offline in the wake of an equipment failure that occurred in mid-February. The failure resulted in an explosion that injured four people. DeHaan said the facility won’t return to full operation until July at the earliest.

“They are looking at either buying some used equipment or doing something more involved,” he said.

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