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California has short-term gasoline crisis

Updated Oct. 5, 2012 at 7:59 AM
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SACRAMENTO, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Gasoline stations in parts of California stopped selling fuel because of high prices, though one independent analyst said the problem was short term.

Motor group AAA reports the average retail price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in California was $4.48, compared to a national average of $3.78. Customers in the San Francisco area were paying, on average, $4.59 per gallon of regular unleaded.

Valero Energy Corp. stopped selling gasoline on the wholesale market in Southern California. Exxon Mobil, meanwhile, said it was rationing fuel to West Coast customers.

Valero spokesman Bill Day told Bloomberg News the price spike was a result of refinery issues.

"Product supply in California has tightened, especially in Southern California, due to refinery outages," he said.

Phillips 66 is to conduct maintenance at two California refineries this month. A Chevron pipeline delivering crude oil to state refineries was shut down last month and Exxon is in the process of restarting a state refinery after it lost power this week.

Retail operators in the state told Bloomberg they'd shut pumps Friday because they were either out of gas or the high costs meant profit margins were too low to stay open.

Bob van der Valk, an independent petroleum analyst, told Bloomberg the price spike was "a short-term problem."

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