Drivers in Southern California awoke Friday to find that their gasoline prices had spiked by nearly 20 cents a gallon overnight as a result of fuel shortages caused by a series of refinery disruptions in recent weeks.
Some gas stations around the Los Angeles area were forced to shut off their pumps because of rationing by suppliers, and they displayed makeshift signs explaining that the shortages were not their fault. Drivers formed long lines at stations that did have gas, with some stations raising prices to more than $5 a gallon for regular gasoline.
“What are they doing to us?” said Marilyn Tucker, a FedEx employee, as she stopped pumping at a central Los Angeles gas station at $37, well before the tank of her sedan was full. “It’s just ridiculous.”
Prices had been rising for several days, making California the most expensive state for gasoline. Friday, Californians paid an average of $4.49 a gallon for regular — 70 cents above the national average. Nationally, gas prices have gone up less than half a penny a gallon over the past week, with prices now easing in many states.
The immediate cause of the California price rise was a power failure at Exxon Mobil’s Torrance, Calif., refinery Monday that shut down some production units at the 150,000-barrel-a-day facility. The company Friday said the refinery had resumed normal operations. Supplies on the West Coast had already been tight because of an Aug. 6 fire at Chevron’s 245,000-barrel-a-day Richmond, Calif., refinery, which has still not been restored to full production.
Refining experts said the rationing and exceedingly high prices would probably last a couple of weeks at the most. Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, said California customers might get some relief in the next few days because traders were suddenly lowering the prices of their bulk sales almost as fast as they were raising them over the last few days.
Across the country, gas prices remain high. The $3.79 average price for a gallon of regular is 39 cents higher than a year ago.