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California’s Gasoline Woes: Refinery Issues Drive Pump Prices Near $6 Per Gallon

California, known for its picturesque coastline and bustling cities, is facing a gasoline crisis as pump prices soar to unprecedented heights. The Golden State, famous for its car culture, is grappling with the harsh reality of gasoline prices inching close to a staggering $6 per gallon. Refinery problems are at the heart of this issue, sending shockwaves through the state’s fuel market and impacting residents’ daily lives.

Fueling the Fire

As of Thursday, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline in California was $5.79, representing a substantial 29-cent surge from just a week ago and a jaw-dropping 54-cent hike compared to the previous month, according to data from the American Automobile Association (AAA). In Long Beach, prices have skyrocketed to $6.06 per gallon, marking a daunting 70-cent increase in just one month. Even Alpine County, nestled on the Nevada border, is witnessing gas prices approaching a startling $7 per gallon, a dire situation reported by AAA.

Refinery Woes Unleash Chaos

Blame for this distressing surge in prices is being placed squarely on refinery outages. Andy Lipow, President of Lipow Oil Associates, highlighted a string of issues, starting with Hurricane Hilary, which inflicted power outages. Subsequently, problems cropped up at Chevron refineries in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, compounding the crisis. To add fuel to the fire, the PBF Torrance refinery in Torrance is undergoing maintenance, leading to the shutdown of several gasoline-producing units, as stated by Lipow.

Unplanned Outages Amplify the Crisis

The California Energy Commission reports that a staggering 90% of the gasoline consumed in the state is sourced from in-state refineries. Therefore, significant unplanned refinery outages inevitably lead to painful spikes in pump prices. Furthermore, West Coast gasoline inventories reached their lowest point leading into Labor Day this year since October 2022, exacerbating the issue.

A Bleak Outlook for Refineries

California’s refinery capacity has been on a decline, plunging by 9.5% since 2020, warns Lipow. The situation is poised to worsen by year-end when Phillips 66 shuts down its Bay Area refinery. This closure will leave just three refineries in the Bay Area and five in the Los Angeles and Long Beach areas producing gasoline. These facilities collectively process over 1.6 million barrels of crude oil per day, highlighting the scale of the problem.

A Ripple Effect Beyond California

The repercussions of California’s refinery problems extend far beyond its borders. Refineries in Texas and New Mexico, which supply gasoline to Arizona, have also encountered operational challenges. When these states face disruptions, Arizona turns to California for additional supply, further straining the situation. Arizona’s gas prices now stand at $4.65 per gallon, a steep increase of 14 cents within a week and a painful 42-cent surge from a month ago, according to AAA data.

AAA spokesperson Andy Gross emphasized that the pain at the pump in this region will persist until refineries can restore normal operations.

In conclusion, California’s gasoline crisis is driven by a confluence of refinery issues, resulting in skyrocketing pump prices. This predicament not only impacts Californians but also sends shockwaves through neighboring states. As the state grapples with refinery closures and maintenance, residents and policymakers are left with the daunting task of finding solutions to mitigate the pain at the pump and ensure a stable fuel supply in the future.

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