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Gasoline averaging $4 a gallon in Los Angeles, with California soon to follow [Updated]

March 25, 2011 |  7:27 am

Gasoline in San Francisco
$4 a gallon gasoline has arrived in the Los Angeles and Long Beach area, according to the daily AAA Fuel Gauge Report.

The region's average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose 1.7 cents to $4.004 on Friday, topping the unwelcome threshold for the first time in nearly three years, according to the report.

CA_grph The AAA tracks prices using credit card receipts compiled by the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express from more than 100,000 retail outlets across the U.S.

[Los Angeles isn't the first city in California to pass the $4 mark. San Francisco got there several days ago. A few other spots around the state also are paying more than $4 on average, including Oakland, Santa Barbara and Ventura. But enough other areas have yet to crash that barrier to keep the overall state average just below the $4 level.]

The entire state may reach the $4 average as early as Saturday. Overnight, the California average rose 1.3 cents a gallon to $3.993.

When it gets there, California will be the third state to reach $4 a gallon, behind Hawaii, at $4.185, and Alaska, at $4.036.

California gasoline has not averaged more than $4 a gallon since Aug. 20, 2008, when it was at $4.018.

Pump prices are also on the rise again across the U.S., with the national average rising a penny overnight to $3.561 a gallon. Five other states and the nation's capital -- Washington, D.C. -- are averaging more than $3.70 a gallon.

Gasoline at these prices is a huge drain on consumers and on the U.S. economy, say experts such as Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service.

"A $3.50 a gallon average nationally equates to a monthly expense of approximately $41 billion.  A $3.75 gallon average price would add up to about $44 billion. A $4 gallon price nationally puts the cost of fueling up for 31 days at about $47 billion," Kloza said.

Other experts, such as fuel-price specialist Bob van der Valk, are expecting prices to continue to rise.

Meanwhile, crude oil was holding steady at above $105 a barrel in early trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude prices are up by 25% since an offensive against the government in Libya shut down most of that nation's oil production.

-- Ronald D. White

Photo: A 76 station in San Francisco. Credit: Getty Images