Gas prices, which recently soared by around 50 cents a gallon statewide in a week's time, are falling at a snail's pace despite a dramatic downturn in wholesale gas prices.
It appears likely that gasoline priced less than $4 a gallon is going to remain a distant memory for the remainder of 2012.
AAA put the statewide average price of unleaded regular on Thursday at $4.659 a gallon, down a tiny fraction from Wednesday's $4.666 and just a short hop from Tuesday's all-time record of $4.671.
National gas price tracker GasBuddy.com had Thursday's average price per gallon in California at $4.63, down a penny from Wednesday.
In Sacramento, AAA said the average for unleaded regular on Thursday was $4.53 a gallon, also down a penny from Wednesday.
Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, characterized the slow-motion drop-offs as "ridiculous" and "a joke" in the aftermath of 50-cent-plus downturns in California wholesale gas prices since Oct. 5 even accounting for a typical three- to five-day lag time between wholesale price changes and a corresponding change at gas pumps.
"The only thing I can think of is that you're having a a day or two of stations trying to get rid of gasoline they got at the top end of the (price) market," DeHaan said Thursday. "I expected prices to drop much quicker, and they still could. Any time now, we're due."
Prices also were expected to dip as a result of this week's California Air Resources Board advisory allowing refiners to begin blending cheaper, winter-grade fuel earlier than usual, but ARB officials warned that the process might take time to ramp up.
Analysts have blamed the latest surge in prices on supply disruptions at refineries throughout California.
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