Gas prices in California reached the highest level in five years on Wednesday, while Los Angeles-area motorists also saw the most expensive fuel costs in the area for the year.
The statewide average for a gallon of regular gasoline hit $4.13 on Wednesday afternoon, according to fuel pricing website GasBuddy.com.
That’s the highest level since July 11, 2014. It’s also by far the most expensive in the U.S., with the current average almost $1.50 above the national average of $2.67.
Meanwhile, pump prices in L.A. climbed to a 2019 high of $4.22 per gallon after jumping seven cents overnight.
Since last month, the statewide average has increased 48 cents; over the same period, the average cost of gas in L.A. has climbed a staggering 58 cents.
Why are costs skyrocketing?
Gas prices in California are already consistently among the most expensive in the U.S., aided by the nation’s highest gas tax. The state’s carbon program also adds to fuel costs, according to a news release from Gas Buddy.
But other reasons are behind the most recent price hike.
The later surge is primarily blamed on setbacks at several local refineries, including unplanned maintenance at the Chevron and Marathon facilities in L.A. County, AAA spokesman Jeff Spring said in a news release last week.
California’s limited ability to import gasoline from other places during times of disruption is another major reason for skyrocketing costs, according to Patrick DeHaan, the head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.
Finally, the attacks on major oil fields in Saudi Arabia last month also contributed.
“California refiners depend on Saudi Arabia for about 20 percent of their oil needs,” Spring explained.
The state’s unleaded gasoline inventories dropped 21 percent last week from the previous week, as production dropped by 18 percent, he said, citing the California Energy Commission. West Coast gasoline inventories also plummeted to the lowest levels since early May.
Relief may be in sight
Experts predict California gas prices haven’t peaked just yet, but they do expect a decrease soon.
“Prices will likely continue to stay high for a number of days, depending on how quickly local refineries can re-start and increase production,” Spring said in a separate news release from AAA on Tuesday.
They could rise another 20 to 50 cents per gallon over the next week before the price starts to drop again, according to DeHaan.
“It may take a couple more days for increases to stop, but a peak should happen very soon after. Following that, perhaps by early next week, prices WILL start to recede,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
How to save fuel amid skyrocketing costs
In the meantime, AAA provided some recommendations to motorists on how to better conserve fuel, measures that can help provide some relief from the rising gas costs.
The tips include:
- Maintaining steady speeds while driving, avoiding any unnecessary acceleration.
- Minimizing last-minute breaking and avoiding “jackrabbit starts.”
- Shopping around for the lowest cost of gas in the area. (AAA and Gas Buddy both have apps to assist in that endeavor)
- Avoid carrying extra weight in the passenger compartment or trunk, and remove the roof rack if it’s not being used regularly
- Only using the air conditioner when needed
“Motorists can significantly reduce fuel consumption and save money by simply adjusting their driving style,” explained Megan McKernan, the manager of AAA’s Automotive Research Center.
More fuel saving tips can be found here.