$5 a gallon? Gasoline prices pushing record highs in Southern California

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Gasoline prices in Southern California have jumped well above $4 a gallon and are closing in on their all-time highs set in 2008.

In some parts of Los Angeles, the price of a gallon of regular gas has blasted through $5 — in less than a week!

The average price of a gallon of gas in Los Angeles County increased nearly 9 cents from Wednesday to Thursday. It is the largest one-day price increase in the past four years.

And, in L.A. County, a 20-cent increase in gas prices in just the last week has some drivers shaking their heads.

“Five dollars is sort of a break point for me," said Gary Mobley, as he pumped gas into his Lexus at a downtown L.A. Chevron station.

Mobley, an attorney from Huntington Beach, was already past that break point. He paid $5.43 for each gallon of gas.

“Our current energy policies are such that I don’t see how the price of oil is going to go down or the price of gasoline, so I just look at it as sort of inevitable,” said Mobley.

Like many Southern Californians, Mobley spends a number of hours each week burning up gas on freeways. He drives from Huntington Beach to downtown court hearings – sometimes four times a week.

“It’s either that or walk, and from Huntington Beach, it’s a long walk,” said Mobley, chuckling.

In the meantime, the average price continues to climb toward $4.61, a record mark not seen in four years.

The reason for the big jump in gas prices?

Blame a series of shocks to California’s network of refineries: Chevron’s fire-damaged Richmond facility is still partly offline. And the recent heat wave caused a power outage at an Exxon refinery in Torrance.

The bottom line: Prices at the pump will not be getting lower anytime soon.

Oil analyst Patrick De Hann of GasBuddy.com says prices are only going to get worse, racing higher in the short term and staying in the same range in California through the end of December.

He said for California, 2012 is the year when the Grinch stole Christmas as the gas pump.

With contributions from Ed Joyce

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