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Gas prices above $4 a gallon in California for first time in five years

Rising gas prices could impact summer travel
  • California gas prices are pushing past $4 a gallon for the first time in five years. 
  • National prices are also spiking, having jumped to $2.84 this week, about 10 cents more than last year. 
  • Blame more maintenance issues than is typical for springtime at refineries in the West Coast and Rocky Mountains. 

With summer fast approaching, Americans nationwide are paying more at the pump, but California gas prices are pushing past $4 for the first time in five years.

Californian gas is never cheap, given that it adheres to strict environmental standards not followed in other states. However, unexpected maintenance problems in local refineries have forced the state to look elsewhere for gas. The cost of transporting imports has made gas prices jump 40 cents since the start of this month alone.

Gas prices in the state averaged $4.01 Wednesday and rose to $4.02 the following day, the highest they've been in the state since July 2014, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. By comparison, national prices rose to $2.84 this week, nearly 10 cents more than where they stood the same time last year.

"We are seeing very expensive gas prices for this time of year across the country," Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson, said in a statement.

Unexpected repairs put more U.S. refineries out of commission

Gas prices nationwide typically spike in the springtime, given that U.S. refineries shut part of their operations to begin production on summer blends of gasoline. However, unexpected maintenance repairs in additional West Coast and Rocky Mountain refineries have squeezed inventory, driving up gas prices in other parts of the country. 

"It's compounded problems, which is why we saw prices explode," said Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.

Of California's 10 refineries, six are either following the typical maintenance schedule or undergoing unexpected repairs, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. Chevron's El Segundo refinery and Marathon's Los Angeles refinery have both encountered production problems. 

Given that the state supplies gas to other regions, states like Nevada and Arizona have also seen their gas prices impacted. 

Gas prices should stabilize in time for summer as refineries finish upgrades and resume production. However, fuel prices might still be higher than they were last year. Motorists can optimize fuel use by checking their tires for under-inflation, removing excess weight from vehicles and shopping around for cheaper pump prices.