Governor takes action as gas prices continue to rise

Governor orders early sale of winter gas blend fuels to bring down gas prices

POSTED: 06:54 AM PDT Oct 08, 2012    UPDATED: 07:07 AM PDT Oct 08, 2012 
Inland Empire Gasoline Prices Rise
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -

Gov. Jerry Brown is taking action in an effort to drive down the cost of gasoline as California drivers cope with record-breaking prices at the pump.

For the third straight day Monday, the statewide average price for a gallon of regular rose to an all-time high, hitting $4.668, according to AAA.

That topped Sunday's price of $4.655 and Saturday's price of $4.6140, which broke the previous record high of $4.6096 per gallon set on June 19, 2008.

In the Inland Empire Sunday, the average price of one gallon of unleaded gas was $4.67, up about a nickel from Saturday's previous record price.

Due to a temporary reduction in supply, California gas prices in recent days have surpassed those in Hawaii to become the highest in the nation.

Brown on Sunday ordered state smog regulators to allow winter-blend gasoline to be sold in California earlier than usual to bring down prices. Winter-blend gas typically isn't sold until after October 31. Few refineries outside the state are currently making summer-blend gas, putting the pressure on already-taxed California manufacturers.

In some locations, fuming motorists paid $5 or more per gallon while station owners had to shut down pumps in others.

In a letter released at noon Sunday, the governor said the market variations were imposing "unacceptable cost impacts on consumers and small businesses." This, he said, was threatening "significant economic disruption, and serious harm to public safety and welfare."

An analyst said California's wholesale gasoline market has gone "into a panic about the adequacy of California fuel supplies" Jeffrey Spring of the Automobile Club of Southern California said the market disruption followed a power failure at the ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery and closure of a Chevron pipeline that moves crude oil to Northern California last Monday.

Other pressure on the state's gas market includes local refineries dropping production levels, energy companies exporting fuel to Mexico and other countries, and allowing inventory to dwindle in anticipation of switching over
to production of winter blend gasoline, Spring said.

Some clean air advocates had worried that such a move would hurt air quality in October, which is one of the hottest months in coastal California due to Santa Ana windstorms and other seasonal weather fluctuations.

The governor said winter gas evaporates more quickly than summer blend, which takes longer to evaporate and is better during the smoggiest months of the year in the summer.

Brown said he expected gas prices to settle down, now that the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance has resumed operations following an electricity outage last week. A Tesoro refinery in the South Bay is expected to resume production next week, after its maintenance shutdown.