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Record High Prices At The Gas Pump Likely To Linger In California

Motorcyclists Hanna Gilan, right, and her son Chaim Gilan fill up their Vespa scooters with less than two gallons at a gas station in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 2012. i i

hide captionMotorcyclists Hanna Gilan, right, and her son Chaim Gilan fill up their Vespa scooters with less than two gallons at a gas station in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 2012.

Damian Dovarganes/AP
Motorcyclists Hanna Gilan, right, and her son Chaim Gilan fill up their Vespa scooters with less than two gallons at a gas station in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 2012.

Motorcyclists Hanna Gilan, right, and her son Chaim Gilan fill up their Vespa scooters with less than two gallons at a gas station in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles on Oct. 4, 2012.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

Gas prices spiked overnight Thursday by as much as 20 cents per gallon in parts of California, causing some stations to close and shocking many customers.

According to The Associated Press, the average price of regular gas across the state was nearly $4.49 a gallon. In other parts of the country, gas prices have fallen. South Carolina has the lowest average gas prices in the continental U.S. at $3.49 a gallon.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, told AP that the highest gas prices in California were around Los Angeles, where at least five stations crossed the $5 a gallon mark on Thursday.

But sadly for drivers in the Golden State, gas prices will keep going up, because while wholesale gasoline prices have increased $1 per gallon, average retail prices have increased by just 30 cents, according to DeHaan.

The AP also says:

"The national average for gas is about $3.79 a gallon, the highest ever for this time of year. However, gas prices in many states have started decreasing, which is typical for October.

But in California, gasoline inventories are the lowest in more than 10 years — a situation made worse by the state's strict pollution limits that require a special blend of cleaner-burning gasoline during hot summer months."

What's fueling these high prices? Refinery and pipeline troubles, which pushed wholesale costs to a record high this week, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times reports:

"Analysts attributed the increase to mishaps that have befallen some of the state's 14 refineries, which operate with little margin for error because few facilities outside California make the state's cleaner-burning gasoline."

This led some gas station owners to stop buying fuel. What if they couldn't sell it? When those stations ran out of the cheaper gas, they closed their pumps.

Other station owners just took a chance on the more costly fuel, hoping customers would understand.

NPR's Carrie Kahn will report more about price pressure at the gas pump on this afternoon's All Things Considered.

(Tanya Ballard Brown is an NPR.org editor.)

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