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California gas prices rise 10 cents a gallon

May 18, 2009 |  5:52 pm

Gasoline prices in California rose an average of 10 cents a gallon for regular self-serve to $2.524 last week, the highest increase in the nation, according to the Department of Energy's weekly gas station survey released today.

In addition, the seven-state West Coast region, including Alaska and Hawaii, had the largest increase with a bump of 8.9 cents a gallon to $2.457, while the nation as a whole jumped 6.9 cents to $2.309.

Prices have increased three straight weeks nationwide, with California rising 18.4 cents and the U.S. up 26 cents in that time.

Stricter emissions standards in California kept the state among the highest in per-gallon gas costs, said Jeffrey Spring, a spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. Prices were higher only in Alaska ($2.68) and Hawaii ($2.61).

The recent rise in gas prices is not unusual as oil refineries continue to ramp up production in anticipation of the summer driving season, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J.

“We’re in a traditional peak time for gasoline,” Kloza said. “But by Labor Day in September, gas prices should start to see a decrease.”

Higher gasoline prices have not affected demand, which has remained flat, he said. Kloza said that overall, motorists are spending about $874 million a day on gas now, up from about $770 million a month ago. Still, that's less than a year ago, when drivers were shelling out about $1.4 billion a day on gas, he said.

“I think we’ll go a little bit higher this week, and you’ll see increases though the driving season, but I absolutely cannot make a case for those $3 or $4 numbers that we were seeing in 2008 and 2007,” Kloza said. “We’re up about nearly 70 cents from where we ended 2008, but we are still almost a dollar and a half under what we were paying this time last year.”

Kloza also attributed recent increases in crude oil futures as a factor. Crude oil for June delivery rose $2.69 a barrel today to $59.03, its highest close in six months on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

But a surplus of crude oil on the market will eventually catch up with futures and help rein in gas prices, he said.

“There’s as much crude oil out there on the market as there is sand in Saudi Arabia right now," Kloza said.

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

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