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Transportation and Mobility

About Those Painful Prices At California Gas Pumps

At the corner of Fairfax Ave. and Olympic Blvd. a Shell station lists gallons of gas at $7.39 9/10 for regular; $7.79 9/10 for plus and $7.99 9/10 for V-Power.
The price of gas on Sept. 21, 2022 when costs started to go up for the first time in almost 100 days.
(Allison Dinner
/
Getty Images)
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Topline:

Drivers in the Los Angeles area are now paying $6.45 on average for a gallon of regular — Orange and Ventura counties are nearly as pricey and Riverside and San Bernardino counties are little over $6.30 a gallon. The average price of a gallon nationwide is just under $3.80.

Ouch. What's up? Prices had been dropping much of the summer after soaring past $6 back in March. That started to changeon Sept. 21. Why? The fuel supply is currently very low due to the planned maintenance on oil refineries. How low? Anlleyn Venegas with the Automobile Club of Southern California says West Coast fuel inventories are at their lowest level in about a decade.

Why that matters: Her colleague Doug Shupe says the state doesn't have a pipeline that brings gas directly here. California relies on what's produced by local refineries or overseas imports. "This is all about supply and demand," he said. "And unfortunately, our supply in Southern California is being squeezed very tight."

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What can be done: Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court is calling on Governor Newsom to request a special legislative session to investigate oil refineries' monthly profits. Currently, they are not required to report California-specific profits.

He adds that oil refineries are required to report what they're making in the West. "We have five oil refiners that make 97% of the gas in the state? This is a virtual cartel," Court said. "And when a virtual cartel does this, it's not market forces. It's a cartel doing it to drive up the prices and drive up their profits. And that demands a response."

What's next: Oil refineries will have to post their monthly profits from selling gas in California starting in January. Court says California drivers will then know which companies are making big profits during the run-ups at the pump — and how much they are making.

Go deeper: Read SB 1322 on petroleum pricing.