The average cost of gasoline in California fell 5.1 cents, to $2.034 a gallon, for the week ended Monday, marking the third straight week of declines after a price spike that hit drivers before Labor Day.
The drop in California's statewide average outpaced the decrease in nationwide retail prices, which fell 2 cents to an average of $1.697 for a gallon of self-serve regular, according to figures from the federal Energy Information Administration.
Still, gasoline in the Golden State is the most expensive in the country, and it remains 45.4 cents per gallon above California's average price a year ago.
With retail stations in most places still charging more than $2 a gallon, and price increases in March and August fresh in the minds of millions of motorists, state politicians and policymakers have been lashing out at oil companies and pushing for new laws to protect consumers.
Last week, Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer accused refiners of pocketing extra profits at Californians' expense, and called on the Legislature to take action to loosen the industry's control of the state's gasoline market.
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who hopes to take the governor's post should Gov. Gray Davis be recalled, recently backed a proposal that would allow the state to regulate California gasoline prices and inventories.
Oil executives have said that unusually tight gasoline supplies, combined with a spate of refinery glitches in California and a pipeline rupture in Arizona, caused prices to jump in August.
When California's prices hit a record average of $2.145 on March 17, the oil industry blamed refinery problems and crude prices that soared because of an oil worker strike in Venezuela and the looming war in Iraq.