Average L.A. County gas tops $6 a gallon even as prices keep falling nationwide (2024)

While prices declined nationwide, the pain at the pump intensified this week in California as the average price of a gallon of regular-grade gasoline in Los Angeles County exceeded $6.

Experts attributed the rise in local prices to recent trouble at a handful of California oil refineries. PBF Energy refineries in Torrance and Martinez as well as a Valero refinery in Benicia outside San Francisco have experienced problems in recent weeks that caused a hit to gasoline production, driving prices up, said Patrick De Haan, head analyst at GasBuddy.

The PBF Energy Torrance refinery in particular is a crucial source of gas for Southern California. A power outage on March 6 led to a key unit going offline, with no update on when it will restart, said Marie Montgomery from the American Automobile Assn.


These refineries have undergone “flaring,” a burning off of gases that have to be released when a problem causes the refinery to go into safety mode, De Haan said. This could be due to a computer or valve issue, but refineries generally do not disclose details.

It can generally take two to four weeks for a refinery to return to full capacity, according to De Haan. The decrease in California’s gas supply can have a ripple effect up the West Coast, potentially affecting gas prices in Oregon and Washington as well.

The latest milestone caps months of rapidly rising gas costs — made worse by the war in Ukraine — that have hit consumers hard.

A set of early numbers have indicated a slight decrease in demand for gasoline on the West Coast while demand has increased in every other region across the country, De Haan said. This could suggest “demand destruction,” a phenomenon that occurs when prices are so high that Americans start to modify their behavior, he said.

In L.A., the average cost of $6.01 per gallon topped California’s average of $5.86 and the nationwide average of $4.24, according to the AAA. L.A. County average gas prices topped $5 per gallon for the first time less than a month ago — on March 3.

Neighboring Southern California counties aren’t far behind Los Angeles, with the average price of a gallon of regular-grade gas in Orange County at $5.97, in Ventura County at $5.95, in San Bernardino County at $5.90 and in Riverside County at $5.88.


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Across the nation, the average gas price peaked at $4.33 per gallon on March 11 and has since dropped 9 cents.

However, the national average could be artificially pulled down by states such as Maryland and Georgia that passed gas tax holidays on Friday, Haan said.

California’s Legislature was looking to temporarily suspend its gas tax — the second-highest in the nation — but Republican lawmakers did not get enough votes. Congress has also struggled to pass its own legislation suspending the federal fuel tax.

California’s Democratic lawmakers have instead pushed for a $400 gas rebate, arguing it would alleviate the burden on Californians without affecting transportation funding provided by the gas tax. On Friday, leaders of the state Senate and Assembly proposed a plan to provide broader-based refunds to address the increasing cost of all goods through $200 payments for each California taxpayer and dependent.

Meanwhile, California gas prices continue to steadily increase, and the gap between county and state prices has also widened, from 1.2% at the beginning of March to 2.6% as of Tuesday.


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Refinery issues aren’t the only culprit, however; other unpredictable factors such as the ongoing war in Ukraine and the global market also affect gas prices in California, De Haan said.


The cost of fuel had already been rising over the last year due to pandemic-related supply-chain issues and inflation, but gas prices have jumped to historic highs since Russia began its Feb. 24 invasion of the former Soviet republic.

California consistently has the most expensive gas in the nation due to the state’s environmental laws and its taxes on motor fuels. During warmer months, the state requires a special blend of gasoline designed to reduce air pollution that is more costly to produce.

But how high will prices go?

“It’s anybody’s guess,” Montgomery said. “If this refinery issue gets resolved quickly, then we don’t expect it to get any higher.”

Another clue is the cost of crude oil. The price per barrel peaked around $128 on March 8 and dropped below $100 a week later, but the barrel price has crept back up to $115 as of Tuesday, according to Brent crude prices.

Gas prices usually follow in the footstep of oil prices, but they don’t always move perfectly in tandem, Montgomery said.

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Average L.A. County gas tops $6 a gallon even as prices keep falling nationwide (2024)


Why is gas over $6 in California? ›

Several factors go into what drivers pay for gas, including refining costs, taxes, distribution and marketing, and crude oil prices, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. High taxes are partly to blame in California. The state has the highest gasoline taxes in the nation, according to EIA.

Why is gas in LA so expensive? ›

"California has its own blend of gasoline, it has very high taxes, and it has a cap-and-trade program," De Haan said. "All of those factor into what you pay at the pump."

Why are gas prices dropping so dramatically? ›

The decline comes as the cost for oil struggles to remain above $70 a barrel, an AAA report published last week said. About the same time, OPEC+ announced voluntary production cuts for about 2 million barrels a day.

Which state has the lowest gas tax? ›

Alaska has the lowest gas tax in the nation at $0.09 per gallon. The state relies on revenue generated from its abundant oil reserves rather than gas taxes to fund transportation infrastructure projects.

Why are Californians paying 70 more for gas? ›

"We pay 70 cents more per gallon than the average state for gasoline in terms of taxes, and yet what we pay at the pump, it's consistently $1.20 or more," Court said. The two taxes unique to California are cap and trade at 30 cents and low carbon fuel standard at 11 cents.

Why is gas in Texas cheaper than California? ›

Dual Taxes

The dual tax on gasoline sets California apart: Most states do not have a sales tax on gasoline. Compare the current average gas price in California at $4.49, to lower-taxed southern states like Texas at $2.75, Oklahoma at $2.66 and Louisiana at $2.78.

Where does California get its gasoline? ›

According to the California Energy Commission, “Because more than 90 percent of the gasoline consumed in California comes from in-state refineries, significant unplanned refinery outages contribute to increases in the price at the pump.”

How much was gas in 1970 in California? ›

In 1970, a gallon of gas cost 36 cents.

Where in California is gas $10 a gallon? ›

The most expensive gas in the US is at this California station at nearly $10 a gallon: Gas Buddy. A gas station in Mendocino, Northern California, is now charging nearly $10 a gallon. According to GasBuddy, it's the most expensive gas in the US.

Where is gas cheapest in America? ›

September 2023 Gasoline Price Updates

Mississippi has the cheapest gasoline prices in the U.S., where the average cost is $3.29 per gallon. It also has the least expensive diesel prices out of the Top 10 states. Louisiana has the second-cheapest gas, with the average cost hitting $3.36 per gallon.

Who controls gas prices in the USA? ›

Petroleum prices are determined by market forces of supply and demand, not individual companies, and the price of crude oil is the primary determinant of the price we pay at the pump.

Will prices go back down? ›

"Deflation, economists... they would not really look kindly on falling prices, and actually, prices are far unlikely to go back to those pre-pandemic levels," Foster said. So, while inflation has indeed slowed since 2021, we're probably not going back to 2019 prices.

Why is gas so high in CA right now? ›

Why are California gas prices high? High taxes on gasoline and regulatory requirements that increase the cost of producing gasoline that meets California specifications. California has a state tax of 61.2 cents per gallon on every gallon sold in California.

Why is gas bill high in California? ›

Factors that could impact your bill include the commodity cost of natural gas (also referred to as the “core procurement gas price”), seasonal variations, an increase in your natural gas appliance usage, weather conditions, and any remaining unpaid balance from prior bills.

Why the sudden increase in gas prices in California? ›

AAA Northern California spokesperson John Treanor attributes the price hike to higher demand as the weather gets nicer and the return of the more expensive “summer blend” of gasoline.

What is the highest gas price ever in California? ›

GasBuddy said its data showed the most expensive price for regular unleaded in California was $8.35 in the desert community of Essex in San Bernardino County.


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