California Moves to Reduce Gas Prices
By IAN LOVETT
Published: October 7, 2012
LOS ANGELES — With gasoline prices reaching record highs across California over the last week, Gov. Jerry Brown moved on Sunday to alleviate some of the pain at the pump.
Mr. Brown directed the California Air Resources Board to take emergency steps to increase the supply of fuel in the state and allow refineries to immediately switch to a winter blend of gasoline that is typically not sold until November.
“Gas prices in California have risen to their highest levels ever, with unacceptable cost impacts on consumers and small businesses,” Mr. Brown, a Democrat, said in a prepared statement.
The sudden increase has surprised motorists who are already accustomed to high gas prices, particularly in this sprawling city.
The cost of gas jumped 20 cents per gallon on Thursday night. Prices have continued to climb since then, although more slowly, reaching a statewide average of $4.66 on Sunday, according to the AAA’s daily fuel gauge report.
Some motorists had begun to direct their frustration at Mr. Brown.
“Consumers in California are getting killed,” Judith Connolly, the owner of a media company, said as she filled up with premium gasoline on Friday. “We’re being penalized, and the rest of the country is paying far less. This is something that Jerry Brown really needs to deal with.”
Problems at several refineries in the state have been blamed for the rising prices. Two months ago, a fire knocked out a 245,000-barrel-a-day refinery in the Bay Area that has still not resumed full production. And last week, a power failure curtailed production at a refinery in Torrance. Full production resumed there on Friday.
Mr. Brown said he hoped that the switch to the winter-blend gasoline, which evaporates more quickly than gasoline sold during the summer smog season, would stop the climb in prices because it could increase fuel supplies in the state by up to 10 percent. Summer-blend gasoline is better for air quality.
Senator Dianne Feinstein also asked the Federal Trade Commission on Sunday to investigate the cause of the price increases.
“California’s consumers are all too familiar with energy price spikes which cannot be explained by market fundamentals and which turn out years later to have been the result of malicious and manipulative trading activity,” Ms. Feinstein, a Democrat, wrote in a letter to the commission’s chairman.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, said a combination of factors, including regulations and geography, make gasoline supplies in California volatile. He said the unusually high prices were likely to level off in “days or weeks” and would not spread to the rest of the country. “It is very specific to California,” he said.
Gasoline prices in California are typically higher than in most of the country because of strict environmental regulations. Yet prices around the country also remain high. The national average on Sunday was $3.81 per gallon of regular gasoline, about 42 cents more than a year ago, the AAA said.
Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting from New York.
Angela Donath, The Keith Byrd Team, South County Realtor in San Luis Obispo County, including Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano, Nipomo, and Avila Beach, 805-801-4355