Despite recent slides in gasoline prices, Southern California drivers could be facing sticker shock at the pumps beginning this weekend after the state’s biggest oil refiners raised wholesale prices charged to gas station owners by 37 cents, warns nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog
The price hike accompanies the transition to summer blends of gasoline, which are being delivered by oil refiners to branded gasoline stations beginning Thursday. Street prices are already beginning their rise, Consumer Watchdog said.
“Drivers in Southern California should fill up now because gasoline prices are going up quickly and not coming back down for a while,” said Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court. “Oil refiners made billions extra last year because of our pain at the pump and after a short respite the pain is going to continue.”
Consumer Watchdog said deals could still be had at Costco and unbranded independent stations for the next few days, but that prices at branded stations would have to change with deliveries of gasoline beginning Thursday.
The gasoline market that the major refiners trade large amounts of gasoline on, known as the spot market, jumped 50 cents on Feb. 24, from 68 cents per gallon to $1.18 per gallon.
Currently, California gasoline prices are still 68 cents higher than the U.S. average. The coming price spike will grow that gap and continue to fuel record profits for oil refiners in the state, said Consumer Watchdog.
However, starting in July, California drivers will pay 2.2 cents less for a gallon of gasoline, after the Board of Equalization voted 3-2 to cut the state excise tax.
The current rate of 30 cents a gallon will stay in effect until June 30 and drop to 27.8 cents a gallon once the new fiscal year starts July 1. The cut marks the third straight year the board has reduced the excise tax, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The average price for regular self-serve gasoline in California was $2.306 a gallon Thursday, down from $3.03 a gallon a year ago and $2.668 a gallon a month ago, according to AAA. In the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, the average was $2.361 a gallon on Thursday, down fro $3.165 a gallon a year ago and $2.829 a month ago. The national average was $1.715 a gallon, compared with $2.328 a year ago and $1.826 a month ago.