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Retail gasoline prices fall in California, nation

But the decline over the last week leaves prices at the pump still far above previous records for this time of year.

November 22, 2011|By Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times
  • Retail prices for gasoline are expected to continue falling. Above, Mohammed Rezaie makes changes at his Union 76 station in Oakland this month.
Retail prices for gasoline are expected to continue falling. Above, Mohammed… (Paul Sakuma, Associated…)

Retail gasoline prices fell over the last week in California and the rest of the nation, but don't get too excited: Prices have to drop a lot more to fall below historic highs for November.

In California, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline fell 5.4 cents over the last week to $3.786, the Energy Department said Monday. That was 61.5 cents a gallon higher than the year-earlier price. It was also 39.1 cents above the old record for this week of $3.395 a gallon, set in 2007.

Nationally, the average price dropped 6.8 cents to $3.368, according to the Energy Department's weekly survey of service stations. That was 49.2 cents a gallon higher than the year-earlier price and 26.9 cents higher than the old record for the week of $3.099 a gallon, also set in 2007.

"Many motorists may be giving thanks for the lower gasoline prices — until they realize that average prices will still easily exceed prior Thanksgiving Day records," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, which operates gasoline price-tracking websites.

The good news is that prices should continue to drop, said Phil Flynn, an analyst at PFGBest Research in Chicago.

"Oil prices were not able to stay above $100 a barrel last week, which means retail prices should continue to fall," Flynn said.

Meanwhile, some groups were using the seasonal record prices to push other agendas.

The American Public Transportation Assn. used the average U.S. gasoline price and averages for parking fees to point out that Americans, on average, would save $9,797 annually if they switched to public transportation.

The advocacy group Environment California said that Californians would save $34 million collectively over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend if the Obama administration's proposed 54.5 miles per gallon fuel economy standard was already in place. Nationally, the savings would be $260 million, the group said.

"The savings work out to about $17 per family, which means they could bring four more pumpkin pies to the holiday dinner," said Sean Carroll, federal field associate for Environment California. "Americans ought to be able to drive over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house without having to stop for gas."

In other energy news, U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude fell 75 cents to $96.92 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent North Sea crude, the price standard for several foreign nations, was down 74 cents to $106.66 a barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange in London.

ron.white@latimes.com

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