California gas prices soar to record highs


Gasoline prices in California hit an all-time high on Monday, when the median price of a regular gallon rose to $4,682, according to American Automobile Assn.

It was the state’s second straight record day. Monday’s price for regular unleaded lead was six-tenths of a cent higher than the AAA-reported Sunday average, which broke the previous state record of $4,671 set in October 2012.

AAA Southern California spokesman Doug Shupe said prices were being driven primarily by higher crude oil costs and increased demand for fuel. A barrel of West Texas crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed at $80.79 on Friday — more than double its 52-week low.

“We had very, very low demand during the pandemic, and then it picked up quickly as more and more people got vaccinated,” Shupe said. “The desire to get out and travel grew very quickly.”

Prices also rose in several counties, including Los Angeles, which climbed to $4,672 on Monday — nearing a record $4,705 set nine years ago.

That number is about 7.9 cents up from a week ago, 20.8 cents up from a month ago and $1.52 up from a year ago.

Average prices in Orange County rose to $4.635 — nearing a previous record of $4.69, also set in October 2012. San Francisco broke its own record, with a gallon of regular gasoline there averaging $4,867.

California’s numbers surpassed the nation’s, which hovered at an average of $3.415 a gallon Monday. The national all-time average high of $4,114 was reached in July 2008.

In fact, the national number has fallen nine times since Oct. 30, AAA said, after rising steadily for the previous 31 days. However, analysts noted that “persistently tight crude oil supplies are likely to see gas prices fluctuate, rather than fall, for some time.”

AAA spokesman Jeffrey Spring said recent heavy rains were also responsible for rising prices in California after the state’s oil refineries were “flooded with water” and affected production. Atmospheric flow in October broke several records when it poured a deluge over the state.

“That really drove up prices in Northern California, which then drove up the average price for California,” Spring said, noting that it was not dissimilar to the disruptions some Louisiana refineries experienced after Hurricane Ida .

California’s painful pump prices come just before the Thanksgiving holiday, when millions of people usually take to the streets. The auto club forecasts about 3.8 Californians will drive to their vacation destinations this year — a 9% increase from 2020 and very close to pre-pandemic levels.

“These prices are certainly frustrating at a time when we know many people will be traveling in the coming weeks and months,” Shupe said, adding that after a year and a half of travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “people are excited so excited to get out there and celebrate the traditional Thanksgiving with her friends and family again.”

At nearly $60 to fill a 12-gallon tank, some might reconsider their plans, but most are likely to stay the course, he said.

For those who do, AAA recommends taking small steps to maximize fuel efficiency, including keeping tires properly inflated and removing extra weight.

And while crude oil prices may soften a little, demand is likely to hold up for the next several months.

“We really don’t know when we’re going to see them start going down,” Shupe said of gas prices. “It is possible that we could see higher prices at our place during the holiday season.” California gas prices soar to record highs

Russell Falcon

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