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Pain at the pump soars in California, experts warn of "erratic" gas prices through mid-September

California gas prices soar ahead of Labor Day Weekend
California gas prices soar ahead of Labor Day Weekend 02:29

WEST SACRAMENTO – Gas prices are on the rise. Californians are nowhere close to paying the highest recorded average of $6.44 set in June 2022, but drivers are feeling the pinch in their wallets.

AAA reports the price for regular unleaded gas is currently about $5.26 in the state. Around this time last year, it was a few cents higher at $5.31.

"We can attribute that to two different things," said John Treanor, a AAA spokesperson. "Demand is up a little bit. More people are driving."

The other reason is weather. Extreme heat shuttered oil production and the peak of hurricane season is around the corner.

When gas prices soared well over $6 last summer, fury raged throughout the Golden State leading the governor and lawmakers to roll out what they called an oil watchdog. The Division of Petroleum Market Oversight is within the California Energy Commission.

So what has been done since the launch?

"They haven't made much progress yet," said Severin Borenstein, the faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas at UC Berkeley. "They're still trying to sort out even what they're going to investigate."

The division is also responsible for investigating price gouging. According to Borenstein, the commission recently held a workshop with a focus on price spikes rather than a mysterious surcharge that can cost up to $0.40 a gallon.

"Price spikes are a small fraction of the overall cost at the pump," he said.

It seems relief is far considering how the division is in its infancy stage amid a complex California gas market.

In the meantime, drivers are not sure how much longer they can last.

"I've gotten used to paying around $5 or more per gas," said Jose Ibel, a driver.  "It's not something I want to keep doing."

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