LOS ANGELES -- Tourists traveling through Los Angeles this holiday weekend were greeted by gas prices topping $4.00 a gallon -- at least a dollar more than the rest of the nation. John Pope watched prices shoot up as he drove his Winnebago cross country to California.
"The lowest I paid was $2.24 in Missouri," said Pope. "After Arizona it went up 50 cents and when we got here, it went up about a dollar fifty," said Pope.
Nationwide, regular gas prices are 22 cents a gallon higher than a month ago, but the increase is double that in California, which has the most expensive gas in the country at $3.76 a gallon.
Some are wondering why gas prices are up at a time when crude oil prices remain low.
"The last time gas prices were over $4.00 in California, crude oil prices were over $100 a barrel. Today, crude oil prices are about $60 a barrel," said Jamie Court, president of the non-profit Consumer Watchdog.
Court is skeptical about poorly timed refinery shutdowns, which decrease supply.
"When the refiners themselves are controlling the maintenance schedule and they're making huge profits when the refineries go down, questions have to be asked," said Court.
Severin Borenstein, with UC Berkeley's Energy Institute says California requires a special summer blend of gas that few refineries produce. An explosion at a refinery near Los Angeles and labor strikes at two others has also slowed production.
"A lot of it is definitely going into profit, but that doesn't mean the firms are doing anything wrong," said Borenstein. "If you happen to be selling a product at a time that there's a real scarcity of it and the price of it goes up, you make a lot of money."