If you've listened, read or watched the news today in SoCal, you were probably greeted with the grim news that gas prices are expected to rise by 30 t0 50 cents starting Friday. But don't cringe too soon — Tom Kloza, expert with the Oil Price Information Service, said that he thinks the increase will look more like a 5 to 10 cent jump.
"Retail prices are about 70 cents less than where they were a year ago, and I absolutely disagree with some of the predictions that you might see a 30- to 50-cent price jump this month," Kloza told KPCC.
Kloza's disagreement comes after Consumer Watchdog warned SoCal drivers on Thursday that they may see a spike in gas prices because of a 50-cent hike in wholesale gas prices following the transition to a summertime blend of fuel.
But why is there a different blend of fuel for the summer?
According to a report by the National Association of Convenience Stores, in the winter gas has higher Reid vapor pressure — a fancy way of saying it evaporates faster and allows cars to start in colder temperatures. In the summertime, the evaporative elements are removed from the gas since it would cause higher emissions and smog levels. This can be more pricey. Kloza explained it like this: Gas is like baking a cake. In the winter there are lots of different hydrocarbons or "flour" to choose from, but in the summer the more environmentally-friendly elements are more like "gluten-free," and a little more expensive.
Does this happen nationally, or is it another perk of living in SoCal?
Yes, it happens nationally, but both Northern and Southern California have tighter restrictions on when the summer-blend fuel must make its entrance at the pump. Nationally, summer blend is required from June 1 through Sept. 15. But starting May 1 for NorCal and April 1 for SoCal and going all the way through Halloween, the summer blend needs to be on the market, as mandated by California law. Currently the transition to summer-blend is underway to meet the April 1 deadline, which is why wholesale prices are on the rise.
So how expensive should we expect gas to get?
Kloza said that gas prices are going to rise, but they will do so slowly — more like by 5 or 10 cents, compared to reports of a 30-cent rise. According to the AAA's Daily Fuel Gage Report, average gas prices in Los Angeles are up Friday to $2.439 per gallon compared to Thursday's $2.361 — about a $0.078 difference. In Orange County, the AAA report says prices went from $2.346 to $2.436. A jump much less dramatic than the "overnight" prediction from Consumer Watchdog.
"You may pay the highest prices in the country, but you will pay much less than you paid last year and much less than you paid in 2011 to 2014 — unless there's an event," Kloza said. An event, he means, like a repeat of the ExxonMobil refinery explosion in Torrance last year.
"You are not looking at the next fuel apocalypse," Kloza said.
And for the sake of commuters across the Southland, hopefully he's right.