Sticker shock at California gas stations

(CBS News) MILL VALLEY, Calif. - Many Americans saw gas prices go up a bit this week. Californians saw them skyrocket. Nationally, the average stands at $3.81 a gallon, up roughly two cents. But in California, prices exploded to a record high average of $4.61 a gallon --that's up 47 cents in a week and makes it the most expensive gas in the country. This could only happen in California.

In the Golden State gas could be the new gold. The rush is on to fill up at a Los Angeles area station where the price is only $4.55 a gallon for regular. That looks reasonable to drivers who see many stations charging $5.00 a gallon.

"Ten dollars in gas doesn't even give me a quarter of a tank if I need to put in just ten dollars in gas," said one customer, "so it's really out of control"

While Triple-A reports the statewide average is a record high $4.61 a gallon ,it is well above that in many metropolitan areas, and at some stations far above that.

"I got gas yesterday at $4.69," said another customer, "and today I saw this at $5.69. I said, 'No I'm not gonna get it."

In San Francisco the average is $4.69 a gallon. The lack of buyers at station charging $5.09 shows drivers have their limits.

The fast-rising prices are linked to a string of supply disruptions, beginning with a huge fire at San Francisco-area Chevron refinery in August.

On Monday, a power failure shut down an Exxon Mobil refinery in Southern California. And a crude oil pipeline in the state is also out of service.

California pollution rules require a gasoline blend that isn't readily available from refineries outside the state..

Some experts say the steep rise could be over by early next week and prices could finally start coming back down. But until then, there is sticker shock at California gas stations.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.

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