After a fall season of unprecedented roadside robbery, with record-breaking gas prices in Southern California, $5-plus gas is back, at least if your car requires premium.
It's mid-February. What the hell is going on?
The spike in L.A. county, with prices rising for the 27th consecutive day, is a result of another switch in seasonal blends, investors betting on strong futures for spring, and a mending economy that's pushing up demand:
So says Jeffrey Spring of the AAA of Southern California.
The average price of gas in L.A. county inched up 1.1 cents overnight to $4.309 a gallon, according to the AAA.
But we found 91 octane gas priced as high as $5.55 a gallon in ... you guessed it ... Beverly Hills. That according to Los Angeles Gas Prices.
(The site reports its cheapest find for low-octane fuel at a Costco in Northridge, where a gallon will set you back $4.25).
Spring says refineries have decided to start switching over to summer blend -- which must be sold in stations by April 1 -- earlier this year, pushing up prices as winter blend becomes more limited.
There's also "heavier" refinery maintenance scheduled this year, which can take refineries down temporarily and squeeze supply.
At the same time, investors are getting in on the action, betting that prices will continue to rise as spring driving season and its increased demand starts to hit, probably in March. An improving economy and more miles driven by people like you could prove them right.
"There's less fuel available on paper," Spring tells us. "Investors are bidding for gas in a market that has a perceived shortness of supply."
This can't bode will then, as spring driving season's not even here. Spring is optimistic, however, noting that prices have started to plateau.
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The turnaround [to summer blend] is done. They started earlier, they're done earlier. Investors might pull money of table.
For now he recommends tight driving habits to save fuel. Get your junk out of your trunk. Make sure your tires are inflated properly. Make sure your car is in ship shape. All that stuff.
And then there's the ultimate fuel saver ... walking.