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Local Gas Prices Overwhelming

POSTED October 9, 2012 10:37 p.m.

The California gas prices that had been creeping down ever-so-slowly at the end of September have now shot up by as much as 60 cents a gallon. At the end of September, prices in Oakdale were as low as $3.85 a gallon. On Oct. 8 those stations were charging $4.45.

Between Monday, Oct. 1 and Wednesday, Oct. 3, prices rose as much as 30 cents a gallon. On Friday morning, prices again rose another 10 to 20 cents bringing the average price of a gallon of gasoline for the Central Valley to $4.49 a gallon according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report. By Oct. 8, and another 20-cent rise, the average gallon of regular unleaded fuel rose to $4.69.

Problems at California refineries have slashed supplies across the state, cutting fuel production and raising wholesale prices – the price stations pay for their gasoline – by as much as 75 cents, to levels not seen since 2007.

Bloomberg News reported that Exxon Mobil's 150,000-barrel-a-day Torrance refinery lost power Monday (Oct. 1) and may suffer production problems for another week.

Chevron’s 240,000-barrel-a-day Richmond plant, the largest refinery in Northern California, has been running at reduced capacity since a fire Aug. 6. Maintenance work at the Phillips 66 plants in Rodeo and Arroyo Grande is also under way, further curbing state supplies.

To aggravate matters, California refineries were dropping production in anticipation of switching over to a seasonal “winter blend” of gasoline next month.

West Coast refineries were running at 84.2 percent of capacity during the last week of September, down from 91.8 percent before the Chevron fire, according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

On Friday Oct 5, prices in Oakdale were as high as $4.79 a gallon. By Monday Oct. 8, they had reached $4.89. By the end of the week, who knows?

“This really sucks,” said Carl Quintoa of Oakdale as he pumped regular unleaded priced at $4.61 a gallon into his Volkswagen bug on Friday. “I don’t know how it (the price) can change in hours, but it does.”

The Bay Area and parts of Southern California reported prices above the mid $5 a gallon mark for its high grades of fuel with one station in Calabasas charging $5.89 and a station on Union Street in San Francisco at $5.79. On Monday Oct. 8, there were reports of gas crossing the $6 a gallon mark in remote parts of the state.

California’s gas prices even passed those charged in Hawaii, usually the nation’s highest average price, on Friday. The average price on Monday in the Aloha State was about 8 cents a gallon less than in the Golden State.

Over the weekend, ExxonMobil officials said operations had resumed at their Southern California refinery that had been unexpectedly shut by a power outage. Gov. Jerry Brown also ordered smog regulators to allow winter-blend gasoline to be sold earlier than usual in California to lower prices. The winter-blend gas typically isn’t sold until Nov. 1.

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