Motorists in Sacramento and the rest of the state have received an unwelcome holiday surprise: rising gas prices at the same time the rest of the nation is paying less.
The average retail price of gas in the Sacramento area rose about 6 cents over the past week to $2.54 a gallon, according to national gas price tracker GasBuddy.com. That’s on top of a nearly 3-cent gain the previous week.
The current price is 3.4 cents per gallon lower than it was one year ago but 2.1 cents higher than a month ago.
GasBuddy said the December increases in the Sacramento area were the first meaningful gains since early July.
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Things are worse in Southern California. GasBuddy said the average retail price of gas in the Los Angeles area on Monday was nearly $3.04 a gallon, which has helped push the statewide average to $2.84 a gallon.
Meanwhile, the national average continues to fall amid plentiful supplies and low crude oil prices. On Monday, the average retail price of gas dipped to a little less than $2 a gallon, down from $2.04 last month and $2.28 a year ago.
Allison Mac, a Los Angeles-based petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said the recent spikes were tied to a flurry of breakdowns and “maintenance issues” at multiple Golden State refineries that produce the specific blend of gas required in California.
“It’s an ongoing headache,” Mac said. “Another problem is a lack of gasoline imports. Up until recently, supplies were good and prices were low, so (California) was not importing gasoline. Now, with the refinery problems, it has become a supply-and-demand issue.”
Mac said the list of ongoing refinery disruptions include a Chevron facility in El Segundo and Tesoro facilities in Martinez, Carson and Wilmington. She also noted that the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance remains crippled by a major explosion there in February this year.
Mac noted that repair and maintenance work at the affected refineries will continue into early January, so California gasoline prices could continue to rise “for another week or so.”
GasBuddy analysts said California’s problems have kept the national average price of gas from falling even lower.
“(Thirty-eight) states lowering gas prices wasn’t enough to move the national average significantly, a testament to the severity of California’s gas price hike,” said Will Speer, a Houston-based analyst for GasBuddy. “As the refining issues impacting California aren’t expected to be resolved this week, California will continue to inflate the national gas price average into the new year.”