The Madeleine Brand Show for September 1, 2011

Crude oil prices are down, so why is gas still so expensive?

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Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

Gas pump.

Gas prices remain stubbornly high, even though lower demand has driven down the price of crude oil. Steve Proffitt joins us to explain why.

Here in California, our gas is refined in a special way to reduce emissions, so that makes it difficult or impossible to bring gasoline in from, say Gulf Coast refiners. Also, some refineries have gone off line for maintenance.

Making gasoline, especially making the formulations that meet California requirements is a really tricky business. You have to reshape molecules. It takes a lot of of pipes, pumps and really high tech equipment, and it's not easy or cheap to keep it all working.

But there's yet another thing propping up prices here, even though demand for gasoline has dropped, marginally at least, in California. It's down about 3 percent from a couple of years ago. But even though it's tough to import gasoline into California, refiners here are actually now selling gasoline, to other countries.

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