AAA: Gas price average in California soars to nearly $6

(KTXL) — Gas prices in California reached another statewide record Friday with an average of $5.90, according to data from AAA.

That average is for regular unleaded gasoline, which went up 10 cents since last week. A month ago, the average gas price in the state was $4.79, while it was $3.88 a year ago. 

According to AAA’s data, Sacramento’s average for regular gas went up to $5.75. That number is a four-cent increase from a week ago.

The city’s average was $4.76 last month, while Sacramento County’s average on Friday was $5.72. 

“As long as the prices of crude oil remain high, then we’re going to continue to see these high gas prices,” AAA spokesperson Aldo Vasquez told FOX40. “Demand usually drives up the prices of gasoline. Heading into that summer travel season as well — where demand usually goes up — we can only anticipate that gas prices will likely go up.” 
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According to a Gas Buddy lead analyst, there’s another factor in California’s rising prices.

“California has suffered the fate of several refineries in Southern California that have had issues arise that essentially has led to a drop in supply of gasoline supply to the market,” said Patrick De Haan. 

He said filings with federal authorities show the refineries have had flaring events when they burn off excess gas. 

“California has had three different refinery flaring events in the last two weeks, so it’s risen to a critical level because of the amount of refineries having this issue. And it could take a couple of weeks for those refineries to get back online,” De Haan said. 

In a release posted Thursday, AAA spokesperson Doug Shupe shed light on the issues refineries are facing.

“In addition to issues at the Torrance refinery which started on March 6 and seems to have been resolved this week, Oil Price Information Service reports that the Valero refinery in Wilmington would delay its planned restart after maintenance until the end of this month or early next month,” Shupe said.

As Californians wait for gas prices to fall, some lawmakers are debating suspending the gas tax. Democrats said there is no guarantee oil companies would pass on the savings to customers. 

Republicans said that is not true, and that customers could see an immediate drop in prices. De Haan said it is a more complicated issue. 

“There’s a lot of nuances to the timing of when a gas tax holiday is agreed upon, and it depends on what the wholesale price of gasoline is doing at the time,” De Haan said. 

He said if the wholesale price declines and a gas tax holiday is approved, prices could go down. However, if markets are volatile and the wholesale price shoots up, drivers would not see much of a change because it would be offset by the tax. 

“I think there’s truth to both sides. Stations do pass the decrease along, but there are too many other factors that could muddy the waters,” De Haan said. 

For now, De Haan said he does not expect the $6 a gallon price tag to stick around. 
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“This is not going to be a new normal. At least that’s my belief now, but I don’t want to sugar coat it: It’s going to take a while for gas prices to go back to what most of us consider normal,” De Haan said. 

As of Friday, the national average for gas was $4.24, according to AAA’s data. 

California currently has the highest gas price average in the country, with Nevada in second at $5.21. Missouri has the lowest average in the nation at $3.78. Orange County ($6.01), San Luis Obispo-Atascadero-Paso Robles ($6.07), Ventura ($6.03), Los Angeles-Long Beach ($6.05) are all regions that have an average of $6 or more.

San Diego ($5.99) and San Francisco ($5.93) were other California cities with an average close to $6 on Friday. 

FOX40’s sister stations KRON4 and KTLA previously reported this month that gas stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles set prices for regular gasoline over $6.

“There’s a lot that goes into the price of gasoline and it could be just the location of where they are, and maybe it just cost a little bit more for the gas to be transported there,” Vasquez said. “Depending on what county you may be in, some counties have set their own air quality restrictions that require special blended gasoline that reduce air pollution.”

“So there’s several factors into why it could be, but I wouldn’t say population is the reason gas prices are higher in one area over the other,” Vasquez continued. 
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In a press release Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a gas rebate proposal that includes $400 direct payments for registered car owners in California. 

The gas rebate program would cost an estimated $11 billion total, with $9 billion of it being used for the rebates. Under the proposal, the funds would be provided through debit cards and individuals are eligible for up to two payments. Payments for families with more than one vehicle would be capped to two vehicles. 

According to Newsom’s office, California drivers spend about an average of $300 in gas taxes per year. 

If the proposal is approved, the first payments could be distributed as soon as July. 

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