Stoked by seasonal demand from vacationing motorists and unscheduled refinery shutdowns that cut supply, the average price statewide of an unleaded gallon of gasoline rose more than 7 cents over the two-week period ended Monday.
The run-up brought the average price of self-serve unleaded fuel to $1.319 per gallon, the highest since early June, and up from an average $1.247 per gallon on July 28, according to a California Energy Commission survey. The average is still less than the 1997 peak of $1.384 on April 14.
The two-week increase again demonstrated California's inelastic gasoline supply. The state's refineries produce only slightly more gasoline, under the best of circumstances, than average demand. The clean-burning fuel mandated by the state is not widely produced outside the state and difficult to import. So, interruptions of refining produce price spikes.
The most recent increases were some of the sharpest California has seen since the average price rose 40 cents over three months to as high as $1.545 in May 1996. That increase was attributed to the industry's refinery shutdowns to retool for the cleaner-burning fuel.
The retail price spike erased the advantage motorists saw at the pump earlier this summer. A commission spokeswoman said prices were unseasonably low because of lower crude oil prices and healthy inventories.