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Gas Prices Hit New Highs

Throughout Southern California, the average cost of self-serve regular beats previous records set a year ago, Auto Club survey says.

March 02, 2004|Elizabeth Douglass | Times Staff Writer

Gasoline prices set record highs in much of Southern California, propelled by lingering refinery worries and expensive crude oil, according to a survey released Monday.

The average cost of self-serve regular in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties has surpassed the all-time highs set during price surges a year ago, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

"With the wholesale [gasoline] price spikes we saw two weeks ago, we're not entirely surprised to see these regions reach new records," said Auto Club spokeswoman Carol Thorp. "The good news is that wholesale prices in California have dropped, and we expect to see that reflected at the pump soon."

Still, retail gas prices are notorious for falling more slowly than they rose. In addition, the cost of crude oil, the main ingredient in gasoline, rose 70 cents to $36.86 a barrel Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, reaching its highest level since just before the war started in Iraq last year.

Gasoline prices in the rest of the nation have not approached the increases seen in California, where several gasoline-producing refineries were crippled by mechanical troubles. The nationwide average stood at $1.691 a gallon Monday, according to the Auto Club.

In Los Angeles County, the average gas price jumped to $2.178 a gallon Sunday and Monday, 1.1 cents above the record high set March 21.

Pump prices in the Riverside and San Bernardino areas rose to an average of $2.192 on Sunday, surpassing the previous record of $2.178 a gallon, also set March 21. The Auto Club survey showed that the average there slipped slightly to $2.19 on Monday.

Gas stations in Ventura were selling fuel for an average of $2.197 a gallon Sunday, 2.5 cents above the record set last year, then edged back Monday to $2.196.

Prices in San Diego and Orange counties are on the verge of busting records set for their regions in 2003, the Auto Club survey showed.

A separate price survey conducted by the federal government showed gasoline prices in California on Monday remained short of the peak levels recorded by its weekly research. According to that survey, the statewide average cost of regular gasoline rose 8 cents over the last week to $2.109 on Monday, below the record of $2.145 noted by the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration last year on March 17.

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