Southern California gas prices hit record highs for the second day in a row Tuesday as motorists continue to grapple with increases arriving at breakneck speed.
Supply issues have prompted a wave of price hikes, which come on the heels of 78 days of price declines that ended in early September.
In Los Angeles County, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded was $6.489, up 53 cents from a week ago, according to AAA. Year-over-year, that amounted to a $2.07 hike.
Orange County was in similar straights, hitting a record $6.445 a gallon Tuesday. That was up nearly 51 cents from a week earlier and up $2.07 from the same time last year.
Riverside County’s average was $6.359 a gallon, rising nearly 56 cents from a week ago and $2.03 from a year ago. Similarly in San Bernardino County, prices topped out at $6.357, up 52 cents from a week ago and $1.99 from a year earlier.
And those are just average prices. Data from losangelesgasprices.com show some gas stations are charging even more.
A Shell station at 705 W. Huntington Dr. in Monrovia posted regular gas for $7.39 a gallon, for example, while a Mobil station in South El Monte was selling it for $7.13.
Doug Shupe, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, tied much of the recent price increases to problems within the state’s network of 14 refineries.
“There has been a string of refinery issues that have severely reduced our supply of gas here in Southern California and throughout the state,” he said. “I’m hearing that about a half-dozen refineries that normally would have done their maintenance in the spring are doing it now because prices were already so high then that they decided to keep their operations going.”
Shupe said some refineries are also dealing with unexpected problems, which has further reduced California’s supply of gas.
The fallout has been hard on motorists and is especially tough for commercial businesses.
“Everything has gone up,” said Jane Skeeter, founder and CEO of UltraGlas, a Chatsworth company that provides specialty glass for everything from hotels, casinos and cruise ships to museums, hospitals and banks.
“You can’t use a Prius to deliver a large piece of glass,” Skeeter said. “And unless you have a hybrid truck or a fleet of all-electric vehicles … you’re caught up in this.”
Gas prices in Southern California have risen for 32 days. Shupe said motorists should expect some relief when the state’s refineries switch to their winter blend of gas, which is less costly to produce.
That blend is ordinarily not available until Nov. 1, but Gov. Gavin Newsom is urging the state Air Resources Board to allow refineries to begin the changeover now so the cheaper winter blend will be available later this month.
Ironically, that contradicts his goals for reducing carbon emissions.
Eleven of the state’s 14 refineries produce fuels that meet California’s specific environmental standards and three smaller ones make other fuels. Kinder Morgan, one of the biggest pipeline distributors of gas in California, is ready to begin shipping the winter blend once it’s ready, Shupe said.
California gas prices are much higher than the rest of the nation, owing to the isolated nature of the state’s transportation fuels market, a mandated summer blend that reduces air pollution, environmental program costs and taxes.
Oil refineries and fuel distribution centers are isolated by time and distance from alternative sources to resupply during unplanned refinery outages, so price spikes often last longer here than in other parts of the country.
L.A. resident Lori Shreve Blake is feeling the pinch, and she’s altered her driving habits. The idea, she said, is to plan ahead.
“I don’t drive as much, and when I run errands I try to gas up my car, go to the Target next door and then to Ralphs which is also right there,” she said. “I drive an SUV, and instead of costing me $60 to fill up it’s costing about $100.”