(Mercury News) – California gas prices to soar this week

California gas prices to soar this week

By Gary Richards grichards@mercurynews.com

If you’re one of those California drivers who already resents having to pay a lot more to fill your tank than most Americans, you’re going to be sputtering mad this week.Prices at the pump have already begun creeping up in recent days, and they may soar this week as much as 30 cents a gallon in the Bay Area and 50 cents in Southern California as refinery issues and a lack of imported crude oil slam the Golden State.That means the average cost of regular gas will soon exceed $4 a gallon in the Southland and get uncomfortably close to that mark in the Bay Area.GasBuddy.com analysts say the
price hikes are occurring because of “an extraordinary convergence of fuel supply problems” that have caused “severe spikes with no immediate relief in sight.” Other analysts blame California’s special blend of less-polluting gasoline, as well as problems at three refineries in the southern part of the state.The $2.76 average across the country is a whopping 83 cents less than in California. Usually the gap is in the 20-30-cent range.The U.S. Department of Energy says the world remains “massively oversupplied.” American drivers paid the lowest price for July 4 travel since 2010, saving 90 cents a gallon.California drivers have also enjoyed lower gas prices than in years past. But state supplies are now at a 12-month low, and federal energy officials say California refiners had to use 1.1 million barrels from their storage tanks. It’s so bleak that imports to the West Coast sank to zero last week after averaging more than 100,000 barrels a day over the previous four weeks.Regular gas in Los Angeles hit $3.79 on average Saturday, up 24 cents since Thursday. Oakland stood at $3.48, 9 cents more than Thursday. And San Jose’s $3.46 average was 10 cents more than 48 hours earlier. The state average of $3.59 jumped 16 cents during the two-day period.”Holy cow — I’m scratching my head,” David Hackett, president of Stillwater Associates in Irvine told Bloomberg News. “Gasoline inventories are on the low side, but we’re not at the bottom of the tank yet.”Some energy analysts are hoping that the increase may last only a week or so. But the less optimistic ones say all bets are off.Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst at Gas Buddy, took the unusual step of urging state drivers not to rush out to fill up.”Filling up unnecessarily may further strain gasoline supply and exacerbate the situation,” he warned. “We have no gasoline as of Monday heading for the California coast. It’s a dire situation.”Problems with California’s crude oil supplies began before Memorial Day when a series of refinery problems in the Midwest led to more oil being sent there than here. Without the ability to get relief from other U.S. regions because California doesn’t have major pipelines, the West Coast has been forced to wait for large vessels from around the world to arrive.The price changes at California’s pumps are getting noticed.”What’s the deal?” asked Eric Itani of San Jose, who has seen his favorite Chevron station boost prices 8 cents in recent days. ‘We’re conserving on electricity, we’re conserving on water — and now I need to conserve on my gas usage.”I am aware that gas prices are much lower compared to one and two years ago, but I am as greedy as the oil companies.”Bill Casilla forked over $3.69 a gallon at the ARCO station on International Boulevard and 98th Avenue in Oakland on Friday. That meant his pickup cost $15 more to fill up than the last time.”Too much,” the landscaper said. “I just pray it stays where it is because I spend a lot for gas.”For Bay Area residents, it could be worse.Tom Robinson, the president of the Rotten Robbie stations, said he’s having no problems getting fuel, but prices have been jumping up and the Southern California market appears to be particularly turbulent.”I think SoCal spot prices are 70 cents higher than NorCal prices,” he said. “Crazy.”Follow Gary Richards at Twitter.com/mrroadshow or Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335.gas prices RISINGCity Thursday SaturdayLos Angeles $3.55* $3.79 San Diego $3.54 $3.75San Francisco $3.52 $3.58Bakersfield $3.47 $3.57Vallejo $3.41 $3.50Oakland $3.39 $3.48San Jose $3.36 $3.46Santa Cruz $3.32 $3.38California $3.43 $3.59United States $2.76 $2.76* Average price for a gallon of regular gas.

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