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

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

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

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. California drivers are in shock. Gas prices have gone through the roof. As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, in some parts of the state, the price for a gallon of gas has jumped more than 50 cents, 5-0, in just the past five days.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: At the intersection of Slauson and La Brea in L.A.'s Baldwin Hills neighborhood, there's a gas station on every corner. Competition is usually pretty fierce, but today everyone's charging the same price - $4.65 for a gallon of unleaded.

DEBORAH PITTMAN: It's crazy. It's like gone up 10 cents overnight.

KAHN: Well, actually, it went up 20 cents last night. So Deborah Pittman says she'll just put in a few gallons.

PITTMAN: I'm not filling up though. I'm only getting a couple of dollars.

KAHN: Nobody's been filling up.

PITTMAN: No, can't afford it. Cannot afford it.

KAHN: Some stations in L.A. are charging more than $5 a gallon. In San Francisco prices have shot past $6. The owner of La Brea Gas, John Kim, says he can't sell at prices that high. So last night, when gas kept rising, he just closed shop.

JOHN KIM: I have never seen anything like this.

KAHN: And he's been selling gas on this corner for 26 years. Last year, he decided to go independent. Now, he has to buy on the daily market, unlike the brand name stations that buy in bulk at lower prices. So this morning, when he opened up, he was back in the red.

KIM: I'm losing 45 cents per gallon right now.

KAHN: Why are you still open?

KIM: Well, you know, I have to stay open. Because my regular customers depend on me. I just don't want them to start developing a habit of going elsewhere. So I'm taking a big hit right now.

KAHN: It's unclear when prices will stabilize. Jay McKeeman, of the California Independent Oil Marketers Association, says supplies are low. He says there was a power outage at a Southern California refinery, lingering problems from a fire at a plant in Northern California and a pipeline issue.

JAY MCKEEMAN: Because this state has a very complex fuel supply regulatory framework we just become very vulnerable to these kind of situations.

KAHN: His group has asked the state to relax air pollution rules so stations can sell the more abundant winter gas blends available elsewhere. Officials say they're evaluating the request. Meanwhile Fred Triplet, whose Chevy pickup has a 30-gallon tank, says he's only going to fill up half way.

OK, you're up to $63.

FRED TRIPLET: I'm probably going to put $70 and leave it alone and drive slow and see if I can save some.

KAHN: Or better still, he'll just hope gas prices drop in a few days. Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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