Tomorrow marks the 1,000th consecutive day that the national gas price average will have been above $3 a gallon. But California and Los Angeles drivers have been paying at least $3 on average for regular unleaded gasoline since Oct. 2, 2010 – 1,082 days as of tomorrow. And local drivers are rapidly approaching an even more expensive statistic: 1,000 days of gas price averages above $3.50 a gallon.
The last time that the California or Los Angeles gas price average was below $3.50 a gallon was Feb. 16, 2011 – two years and seven months ago today. If prices don’t drop dramatically in the near future, the $3.50 or higher average will have been maintained for 1,000 straight days on Nov. 12 of this year.
“Southern California drivers are usually paying the highest prices for gasoline among all drivers in the continental U.S.,” said Auto Club spokesman Jeffrey Spring. “It’s an unfortunate reality caused by a number of factors including California’s higher cost of living, gasoline taxes, and lower competition than in other states.”
The reduced competitiveness is not only because fewer oil companies operate in California than in some other states, Spring said, but also because of California’s unique formulation requirements for gasoline to reduce smog. The special gasoline blend requirements mean that the state’s fuel marketplace is limited to obtaining almost all of its supply from California refineries.
The all-time record price average for California and Los Angeles drivers was reached on Oct. 9, 2012, when a shortage of California’s “summer blend” of gasoline created a supply crisis. On that day, the average reached $4.705 for Los Angeles and $4.671 for California.
The average price paid by California drivers so far this year is $3.959 and for all of 2012, the average price was $4.028. In Los Angeles, the year-to-date average price is $4.014 and for all of 2012 it was $4.057.
“Spending more on gas concerns consumers because it reduces savings and spending for everything else we need,” said AAA President and CEO Bob Darbelnet. “Our leaders can help alleviate this economic burden by encouraging a national policy that stimulates production, limits price volatility, ensures greater efficiency and promotes alternative energy.”
The national average price of gas so far this year is $3.57 per gallon, but this average should drop through December as demand declines during cooler months. Last year was the most expensive year on record with an annual average of $3.60 per gallon, followed by an annual average of $3.51 per gallon in 2011. The average U.S. household in 2012 spent $2,912 on gasoline, or just under four percent of income before taxes, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Forty-six percent of adults believe gas is too high when it reaches $3.00 per gallon, according to a consumer index developed by AAA. Sixty-two percent believe gas is too high when it reaches $3.50 per gallon and 90 percent believe gas is too high when it reaches $4.00 per gallon. Sixty-two percent of Americans reported offsetting high gas prices by changing their driving habits or lifestyle.
AAA updates fuel price averages daily at www.FuelGaugeReport.AAA.com. Every day up to 120,000 stations are surveyed based on credit card swipes and direct feeds in cooperation with the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) and Wright Express for unmatched statistical reliability.