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Californians dreaming of a place where gas is cheaper

| Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, 7:07 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — Californians woke up to a shock on Friday as overnight gasoline prices jumped by as much as 20 cents a gallon in some areas, ending a week of soaring costs that caused some stations close and others to charge record prices.

The average price of regular gas across the state was nearly $4.49 a gallon, the highest in the nation, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report.

In Southern California, the price jumped 20 cents a gallon overnight to $4.53 in Ventura. And in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area prices went up 19 cents to nearly $4.54. It wasn't any better to the north, as a gallon of regular gas in San Francisco averaged nearly $4.60.

In many areas, prices have jumped 40 cents in a week as refinery problems have created shortages. Some stations ran out of gas and shut down rather than pay those costs.

Even Costco Wholesale Corp., the giant discount store chain that sells large volumes of gas, decided to close some stations

“We do not know when we will be resupplied,” read a sign at one Southern California Costco, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Other gas stations charged more than $5 a gallon. The Low-P station in Calabasas charged $5.69 Thursday. The pumps bore hand-written signs reading, “We are sorry, it is not our fault,” the Times said.

While gas prices have spiked around the nation, refinery outages and pipeline problems have added to woes in California.

Among the recent disruptions, an Aug. 6 fire at a Chevron Corp. refinery in Richmond left one of the region's largest refineries producing at a reduced capacity, and a Chevron pipeline that moves crude to Northern California also was shut down.

A power failure affected an Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery in Torrance, but a company spokeswoman said Friday that the refinery has resumed normal operations and would be able to meet all of its contractual commitments.

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.

Hawaii usually has the nation's most expensive gas, but California leapfrogged the Aloha State. The average price in Hawaii was about 8 cents a gallon less than in California.

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.

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