Business & Economy

Why gas prices are falling nationwide but increasing in Southern California

At a Shell station in Culver City, CA, gas was nearly a gallon higher than the national average on December 23, 2015.
At a Shell station in Culver City, CA, gas was nearly a gallon higher than the national average on December 23, 2015.
Ben Bergman/KPCC

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If you’re hitting the road for Christmas, you can be forgiven for feeling a bit envious towards drivers in other parts of the country. While gas prices have plummeted below two dollars a gallon in many places, in Southern California they’re going the opposite direction. 

An average price of a gallon of regular unleaded on Wednesday is $2.93, according to Gasbuddy.com, which tracks prices. That’s 19 cents higher than both last week and last year.

The reason is California only has a few refineries so when there are problems, there’s not much room for error, said Allison Mac, an analyst at GasBuddy.com. 

“Unfortunately, for the past couple weeks we’ve been seeing a lot of unplanned maintenance at the refineries which has really tugged on our supply, which is why prices have gone up.” said Mac.

Nationwide, gas is at its cheapest level in six years, dropping below the $2 mark over the weekend.

The American Automobile Association says U.S. drivers have saved an average of $550 this year from lower fuel costs, which means along with an improving economy that people are driving more; Americans are on pace to drive a record number of miles this year, based on early estimates by the Federal Highway Administration.

“Drivers across the country are celebrating the historic return of cheaper gas prices,” Marshall Doney, AAA’s President and CEO said in a statement. “The lowest gas prices in nearly seven years are a holiday gift that few consumers could have imagined when gasoline was $4 a gallon.”

Except not in Southern California, which has some of the highest gas prices in the nation. Mac says by this weekend, prices could reach $3 dollars a gallon.