The average pump price has passed $4 a gallon in the Los Angeles area, according to the daily AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
The region's average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose 1.7 cents to $4.004 on Friday, topping the unwelcome threshold for the first time in nearly three years, according to the report. AAA tracks prices using credit card receipts compiled by the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express from more than 100,000 retail outlets across the U.S.
Los Angeles isn't the first city in California to pass the $4 mark. San Francisco got there several days ago. A few other spots around the state also are paying more than $4 on average, including Oakland, Santa Barbara and Ventura. But enough other areas have yet to crash that barrier to keep the overall state average just below the $4 level.
The entire state may reach the $4 average as early as Saturday. The California average rose 1.3 cents a gallon overnight to $3.993.
When it gets there, California will be the third state to reach $4 a gallon, behind Hawaii, at $4.185, and Alaska, at $4.036.
California gasoline has not averaged more than $4 a gallon since Aug. 20, 2008, when it was at $4.018.
Pump prices are also on the rise again across the U.S., with the national average rising a penny overnight to $3.561 a gallon Friday. Five other states and Washington, D.C., are averaging more than $3.70 a gallon.
Gasoline at these prices is a huge drain on consumers and on the U.S. economy, experts say.
"A $3.50-a-gallon average nationally equates to a monthly expense of approximately $41 billion," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, a price-tracking service. "A $3.75-a-gallon average price would add up to about $44 billion. A $4-a-gallon price nationally puts the cost of fueling up for 31 days at about $47 billion."
In New York futures trading, crude oil for May delivery fell 20 cents to close at $105.40 a barrel Friday. Prices have risen 31% in the last year.