Hey America, remember that "change" you asked for?
Just in time for Presidents Day: get ready for the long holiday weekend's highest prices ever in Southern California as $4 gasoline is expected to arrive in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and probably Orange County, too.
This Chevron in Modesto was right at the edge of hitting $4 for a gallon of regular gasoline. The $4-a-gallon barrier is likely to be broken this weekend in Southern California. (Debbie Noda / Associated Press / The Modesto Bee / February 12, 2012)
That's what energy analysts are predicting as the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area reached $3.996 a gallon overnight, up nearly 2 cents since Thursday. That was also a jump of 15.9 cents a gallon since last week.
That's according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, a daily record of credit card receipts compiled from more than 100,000 service stations around the U.S. by the Oil Price Information Service in New Jersey and by Wright Express.
Not far behind the L.A. area: San Diego is also on the brink at $3.992 a gallon, up 16.2 cents since last week, according to the report. Orange County was also on the cusp, rising 16.2 cents a gallon in the past week to an average of $3.989 a gallon.
"There was quite a paroxysm in the spot market for wholesale gasoline and a confluence of refinery maintenance," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for OPIS. "It's quite noticeable because the price of crude is also over $100 a barrel. And if you live on the East or West Coast, you are dealing with a lot of $115 to $120 a barrel oil, like Alaskan crude and Brent crude."
Kloza was referring to refineries in the state that had shut down for maintenance, which usually causes a spike because supplies are so tight, but that wasn't the only factor.
Kloza said that California is already in its switchover from cheaper winter blend gasoline to a more complex and more expensive summer blend of gasoline. California is the first state in the nation to make the switch.
The pain at the pump is widespread in the state. Overnight, average prices rose above $4 in the Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc region ($4.031 a gallon); in the San Luis Obispo, Atascadero and Paso Robles region ($4.030); and in San Francisco ($4.006 a gallon).
California's average stands at $3.956 a gallon, which is also a record for Feb. 17, breaking the old mark set last year by a whopping 45.3 cents a gallon