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Why Are Gas Prices Going Up

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Why Are Gas Prices Going Up, Orange County gas prices surged by 4 cents a gallon on Wednesday, and analysts saw no reason to think they’d go anywhere else but up some more over at least the next several days. An average gallon of regular unleaded was selling here for about $3.80, according to the AAA daily Fuel Gauge Report. Orange County drivers are now paying about 20 cents more for every gallon they pump than they were on Jan. 1.

A motorist fills his car as gas prices rise due to low supplies as refineries head into their maintenance cycles.
Wednesday’s 4-cent jump “probably won’t be the end of it,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com. Orange County gas prices could approach $4 by next week, he said, and might not level off until mid-February.

“Orange County prices will really pick up,” he said.

Several California refineries are undergoing routine maintenance as they prepare to switch to the state’s cleaner-burning summer blend of fuel, AAA spokeswoman Marie Montgomery said. That crimps the supply reaching gas pumps, pushing up prices, she said.

That change-over to summer fuel can also force prices up, DeHaan said. So can the price of oil, which has been trading higher in recent days.

Analysts watch the price of wholesale gasoline – what mom-and-pop stores pay for their supply – as a good indicator of where pump prices are headed. That wholesale price has gone up by 50 cents in less than two weeks, Montgomery said.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that drivers are going to see the full 50-cent hike at the pump, she added. But Wednesday’s price hike “is a pretty big one-day jump,” she said. “Generally, when you get one 4-cent jump, it’s not going to be the end.”

Prices spiked during a similar refinery maintenance period last February, Montgomery said. But gas prices typically don’t reach their peak until mid-May, shortly before the Memorial Day holiday opens the summer driving season.

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