KTLA News/Los Angeles Times
12:13 PM EDT, October 10, 2012
LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- The worst-ever one-week spike in California gas prices may be over -- at least for now -- but any real relief at the pump could take a while.
Prices dropped overnight by an average of .5 cents per gallon to $4.666 on Tuesday, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
A week ago, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $4.232, which was already a record for the day.
Analysts attributed the sudden surge in prices to refinery and pipeline problems, which severely impacted the supply of gasoline in the state.
Concern about fuel supplies caused some traders to hold onto what they had, and, perhaps, to buy more than they needed.
Those whose supplies were running out had to bid high to get more -- driving prices up to nearly $6 a gallon at some stations.
Other stations, including 15 Costco locations, shut down their pumps rather than buy at a premium price, then lose out if the market collapsed.
On Sunday, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the California Air Resources Board to immediately allow oil refineries to release winter-blend gasoline three weeks early.
The winter blend evaporates more quickly than gas sold in summer months, and it's considered more detrimental to air quality during warm weather.
According to Brown, releasing the supply could increase the amount of gasoline in the state by 8 to 10 percent with "negligible" air quality impact.
But not everyone is satisfied just because the crisis may be over soon, including state senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.
They want the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to investigate.
Meantime, consumer advocates are scoffing at the idea that prices might fall quickly to give Californians some much-needed relief.
"Forget all those sanguine forecasts for lower prices," Charles Langley, public advocate for the Utility Consumers' Action Network in San Diego, told the L.A. Times.
"We saw prices drop 0.5 cents last night. Well, rooty-toot-toot. But you can expect them to stay firm."