Southern California gas prices stay steady overnight


Prices in the Los Angeles area stayed steady at an average of $4.70, up 52 cents from last week. In Orange County, Ventura County and the Inland Empire, prices are at an average of $4.69, an increase of 51 to 54 cents since last week.

In an effort to drag gas prices down and increase supply, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered smog regulators on Sunday to release the winter blend early. Normally, summer blend gasoline is more expensive and is used through Oct. 31 in the state due to air quality concerns. Brown said releasing the winter blend will increase gas supplies 8 to 10 percent, which may help lower prices.

The state's record high gas prices - currently the highest in the nation - could drop within a week, depending on how quickly refineries can get the winter blend fuel to market.

Many drivers say releasing the winter formula early is a step in the right direction.

"I think that it may bring down the gas prices a little bit. I'm glad for the effort but I think we need to get it down to where it needs to be," said Donte Carter. "It's going to take Jerry Brown and a few more other things."

While some drivers are eager for the winter blend, others worry about the long term effects.

"I think people often react to what's going to solve the problem immediately, but we don't know what kind of problems that's going to cause ultimately," said Elaine Trussell of Pacific Palisades.

Brown says the early release of the winter blend will have minimal impact on air quality.

To ease pocketbooks, some drivers are looking for other ways to get around that do not involve filing up in the meantime.

"I do drive less and I try to combine my errands in one day so I'm not travelling as much," said Preshina Naido of Norwalk.

Metrolink says thanks to high gas prices, it had its highest weekend ridership ever this weekend with nearly 23,000 riders.

There are lingering questions as to what is behind the dramatic increase in cost. Refinery problems have been cited, but California Sen. Dianne Feinstein says the record prices may be the result of an illegal short squeeze engineered by the handful of companies that refine gas in California. Feinstein has called on the Federal Trade Commission to monitor energy prices and production and watch for malicious and manipulative trading practices.

California Sen. Barbara Boxer, joined Feinstein in calling for a federal investigation.

"I can't tell you whether there's manipulation, I can't tell you whether there's price gouging, I can't tell you whether there's illegal activity. But what I can tell you is I am concerned," Boxer said.

The surge in prices is being fuelled by several factors, including a power outage at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance, one of the largest gasoline producers in the Southland, last week. Efforts continued Monday to make repairs on the flare, which acts as an emergency release valve, at the refinery. The company said last week operations were back to normal. However, the Torrance Fire Department, which monitors safety measures, said only one flare is operational. The refinery is operating at lower capacity.

Meanwhile, drivers are left to deal with the repercussions.

"I think I'm being taken advantage of, but I don't have any choice, people have to buy gasoline. There's nothing you can do," said Dan Andrews of Topanga Canyon.

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