On Monday, the price of regular gas was $5.35 at the Mobil station at Hacienda Boulevard and Gale Avenue in Hacienda Heights. This price is about $1 above the average price of gas in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, which is at $4.39. In Orange and Ventura counties, drivers are paying an average of $4.37. The prices for all three of these areas reflect a 16-cent jump in just a week. Drivers in the Inland Empire are paying $4.34, up 14 cents in a week.
Experts say the sudden price hike is due to supply shortage and not the upcoming holiday weekend. There are only a few refineries that produce the summer gas blend required in California and three are currently closed. Tesoro, Shell and ConocoPhillips, all of which are in the San Francisco area, are producing at slower rates due to routine maintenance. A fire that forced a refinery to shutter in Washington state has also affected prices in the Southland.
"They're not producing at the levels they should be producing at, so that caused a lot of the traders in the wholesale market to get a little nervous about how much inventory there is," said Jeffrey Spring, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California.
If the refineries get back to normal, motorists could see some relief as early as the end of the week. The wholesale gas market has already dropped about 12-cents a gallon since last Friday.
"That bodes well for the consumer," Spring said. "If that kind of trend continues for the next few days, we should see retail prices go back to where they were."
Coincidentally, the hike in gas prices comes as Bike Week kicks off in L.A. During the week, people are encouraged to ride a bike to work, school and any other destination to reduce traffic and air pollution. Gas prices may add an extra incentive to participate.