California feeling some relief at the gas pump

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - These days California drivers are trying desperately to avoid the gas station -- some wait too long -- because the price at the pump is painful.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded soared more than 50 cents in a week.

Sam Krikorian closed his pumps Friday when the price to refill his tanks hit $50,000 -- $20,000 more than the week before. When he closed, a gallon of gas cost his customers 66 cents more than at the beginning of the week.

"The price went up 5 cents, 8 cents, 12 cents one time, went up to 35 cents in single time," Krikorian said.

On Monday, he was back open. The price to fill his tanks dropped $7,000 over the weekend, which means he can lower the price at the pump.

"(On Monday,) it went down another 7 to 8 cents, which is a good sign, but still it's high compared to what it was before," Krikorian said.

The problem at California's pumps is classic supply and demand - or lack of supply. A refinery fire in northern California, and another shutdown in southern California by a power outage, cut the state's supply of gasoline by about 10 percent. Now, those refineries are coming back online.

Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown called for an early transition to the winter blend of gas refiners have stockpiled for the cold months. It's more polluting, but it's more plentiful, says energy analyst Dave Hackett.

"It'll raise gasoline production upwards of 10 percent, so it's like adding another refinery," Hackett said.

Hackett added that the fever at the pump has been broken and prices will soon fall.

"It'll be lower tomorrow than it is today. It'll be lower Wednesday than it is tomorrow," Hackett said.

  • Bill Whitaker

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