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    California gas prices are rising again. Here's why, and how high experts say they could go


    September 29, 2022 - Jessica Flores, San Francisco Chronicle

     

      Sep. 29—Gas prices are rising yet again in California — one of several regions in the U.S. where refinery problems have squeezed supplies and caused local spikes severe enough to reverse an extended decline in the U.S. average gas price, according to experts.

      The average price of a gallon of regular gas in California on Tuesday was $5.88 — up 9 cents overnight and 43 cents from a week ago, and more than $2 higher than the national average price, according to

      data

      from the American Automobile Association.

      And prices in the state could continue to rise for several weeks — by as much as 75 cents per gallon in some areas, analysts said.

      But the cause of California's recent spike in prices is different from when drivers were paying record-high costs

      earlier

      this year, said Severin Borenstein, an economist and faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas

      at UC Berkeley

      .

      Prices began climbing in February after Russia invaded Ukraine,

      sending

      the cost of crude oil from $90 per barrel to well over $100. However, oil prices have

      steadily decreased in recent months

      amid fears of a global recession.

      But for California this time around, local refinery problems are the culprit behind higher prices at the pump. Similar disruptions at refineries in the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes and Plains regions have caused prices to surge there as well, GasBuddy analyst Patrick De Haan said Monday

      in a blog post

      .

      In the Bay Area and Northern California, drivers are paying some of the highest prices for gas in the state, the AAA data shows.

      "The increase this time is due to a scarcity of refined gasoline," explained Borenstein, as maintenance or unplanned outages at local refineries reduced their output.

      Borenstein and others have also noted that

      higher gas taxes plus environmental and other fees

      help keep California's gas prices perennially at the top in the nation.

      "Given how high the commodity price of gasoline is, I expect the retail price to continue to rise for at least a couple of weeks," Borenstein said. "Beyond that, it is hard to know."

      Some parts of the country like the Northeast and South have continued to see gas costs decline, said Nicole Peterson, a spokeswoman for GasBuddy.

      But the "wild fluctuations" in the West Coast, Great Lakes and Plains regions were enough to end a 14-week stretch of declining gas prices nationally, De Haan said, with the U.S. average rising 3.2 cents from a week ago to $3.67 per gallon Monday — down 17.5 cents from a month ago but still 49.3 cents higher than a year ago, he noted.

      "I don't know that I've ever seen a wider gamut of price behaviors coast to coast in my career," he said.

      "As refiners (in California) work to get issues under control, the disconnect between regions will likely continue to grow," Peterson said.

      And drivers in the state may not see relief any time soon. Experts anticipate prices will keep climbing over the next two weeks, or until refinery issues are cleared.

      Californians should expect to see costs rise anywhere between 25 to 75 cents per gallon in some areas of the state, Peterson said.

      Jessica Flores is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jessica.flores@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @jesssmflores

      ___

      (c)2022 the San Francisco Chronicle

      Visit the San Francisco Chronicle at www.sfchronicle.com

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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