TRUCKEE, Calif. - The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in California rose to an all-time high Monday, the third record-setting day in a row that is prompting calls for a federal investigation into the price spike.
The average price in the state hit $4.668, according to AAA. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, saying residents need to be protected from "malicious trading schemes."
In Nevada, gas prices went up 14.3 cents per gallon statewide as of Sunday, according to GasBuddy.com. That increase drove prices to $3.91 a gallon on Sunday.
Locally, the prices are even higher. The rate for a gallon of regular fuel at all five gas stations in Truckee as of midday Tuesday was at $4.99, the price since Friday, with some stations charging $5.19 a gallon for premium, according to californiagasprices.com.
"Thanks largely due to the situation in California, the national average rose slightly in the last week," said GasBuddy.com Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan. "The good news for Californians is to expect relief this week. Around the rest of the nation I expect a mixed bag, with prices not moving significantly in either direction from what I can see at this time.
"Nationally, prices remain much higher than last year, especially in California, where the average now stands 88 (cents per gallon) higher than a year ago," DeHaan said.
Feinstein in her letter Sunday asked the FTC to determine if the price spike was caused by illegal manipulation of the market and to start monitoring the market for fraud, manipulation, or other malicious trading practices.
"Publicly available data appears to confirm that market fundamentals are not to blame for rising gas prices in California," she wrote.
Despite a pipeline and refinery shutdown, she said, state data shows gas production last week was "almost as high as a year ago, and stockpiles of gasoline and blending components combined were equal to this time last year," she said.
In some locations, fuming motorists paid $5 or more per gallon over the weekend, while station owners had to shut down pumps in others.
A station in Long Beach south of Los Angeles had California's priciest gas at $6.65 for a gallon of regular, according to GasBuddy.com. Meanwhile, customers at an outlet in San Pablo north of Oakland paid $3.49, the lowest.
The dramatic surge came after a power outage at a Southern California refinery that reduced supply in an already fragile and volatile market, analysts said. The refinery came back online Friday.
Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday ordered state smog regulators to allow winter-blend gasoline to be sold in California earlier than usual to bring down prices.
Winter-blend gas typically isn't sold until after Oct. 31. Few refineries outside the state are currently making summer-blend gas, putting the pressure on already-taxed California manufacturers.