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Crude Awakening: As Gas Prices Continue To Go Up, Drivers Are Anything But Down With It

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA)  -- Pain at the pump? That's an understatement.

Drive through Southern California and it's easy to find regular gas -- priced at well over $4 a gallon.

CBS2/KCAL9's Jeff Nguyen found no shortage of consumers with theories on why the price is soaring.

"Sometimes you almost feel like it's collusion," says Brea resident David Villa.

"Price gauging -- probably," says Brad Gast, another Brea resident.

They may not be entirely wrong.

In a memo to Governor Newsom, the California Energy Commission has concluded "market manipulation" may be one factor in why the state's gas prices are so high.

AAA says the average price for a gallon of gas in Southern California is well over a dollar more than the national average.

Marie Montgomery says it pays to shop around at stations like Arco and Costco - where the lines speak for themselves. The big box store specifically has specific rules on pricing.

"The by-laws dictate how much over the wholesale price that they are allowed to charge. So that does help to keep their prices very competitive," says Montgomery, a spokesperson for AAA.

The Energy Commission alsp identified a number of possible causes like refinery outages following recent fires.

The oil industry, meanwhile, points to the state's environmental rules which require cleaner burning summer blends.

In a statement it said:  "This report provides further evidence of what market experts and government agencies have maintained for years --  there are many factors that influence movement in the price of gasoline and diesel, but the primary driver is the dynamics of supply and demand of crude oil."

Some consumers blame the 2017 gas tax that was established to help pay for road repairs.

"We have the highest taxes in the nation… anywhere," says Gast.

Without one definitive answer, the Energy Commission has proposed a five-month study to pin down why drivers here pay more than the rest of the country.

"You just hope some substantive change comes because it is quite ridiculous," says Villa.

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