Auto Club: Gas Prices Set New Records in L.A., Orange County and Inland Empire

(LOS ANGELES, April 19, 2006) — The average price of a gallon gasoline reached new record levels across Southern California as the L.A./Long Beach area recorded $3.000 per gallon, topping the old record of $2.999 set Sept. 6, 2005. The average price in Orange County also reached a record level of $2.973, eclipsing the old record mark of $2.970, also set on Sept. 6, 2005. Motorists in the Inland Empire are paying an average of $3.036 per gallon, besting the old record of $3.030 set on Sept. 9, 2005.

"Investors have been climbing a wall of worry because of uncertainties about political stability in Iraq and saber-rattling in Iran. Those worries have sent crude oil futures to record levels and gasoline has followed," said Carol Thorp, spokesperson for the Automobile Club of Southern California. "Motorists can expect two-to-three weeks more of price increases that could send the average price of regular as high as $3.10–$3.20 per gallon."

The nation's refining capacity still has not reached pre-Hurricane Katrina levels. Also, some regions of the country are dealing with gasoline refining problems that have further reduced the supply of gas on the market. The refineries are required to make a summer blend of fuel that uses ethanol instead of MTBE (methyl-tertiary-butyl ether). In some cases, there has not been enough ethanol to meet refiners' needs. The supply pinch, coupled with an increase in demand for gasoline this year, has contributed to upward pressure on prices.

Analysts believe that by Memorial Day, as much as one million additional barrels of gasoline per day will enter the nation's supply stream as refineries are able to reach full production, Thorp added. "As the summer driving season begins, prices are expected to begin falling. But until that time, motorists should look for ways to reduce their driving costs by carpooling and maintaining their vehicles in the best possible condition," Thorp said.

Also today, San Diego's average price topped $3 per gallon with an average cost of $3.024. San Diego's price is below the record high of $3.060 set Sept. 5, 2005.