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Gasoline prices fall again but are still higher than usual in fall

Average prices for a gallon of regular fell for the fourth straight week, 5.2 cents to $3.835 in California and 7.6 cents to $3.433 nationwide. Prices usually drop more sharply this time of year.

October 04, 2011|By Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times
  • The U.S. average for a gallon of regular gasoline for this week was higher only once, when it was $3.484 in October 2008. Above, a gas station in Carnegie, Pa.
The U.S. average for a gallon of regular gasoline for this week was higher… (Gene J. Puskar, Associated…)

Gasoline prices dropped in California and the rest of the nation during the last week, but the post-summer swoon is falling well short of average as motorists continue to pay some of the highest prices on record for this time of year.

Autumn is usually a time of significant price relief, a time when supplies are plentiful and post-summer driving is mostly confined to commutes, errands and short trips. But even though the price of a gallon of regular gasoline in California fell for the fourth straight week, the declines are coming off the worst summer in three years for fuel prices. And prices fell a lot faster after summer 2008.

In California, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline fell 5.2 cents over the last week to $3.835, according to the Energy Department's weekly survey of service stations, released Monday. That easily broke California's record for this week, which was $3.601 a gallon set in October 2008.

The national average also has fallen for four straight weeks and was down 7.6 cents in the most recent week to $3.433 a gallon. The U.S. average for this week was higher only once, when it stood at $3.484 a gallon, also in October 2008.

The current pain at the pump has been a huge financial drain on consumers, said Fred Rozell, director of retail pricing for the Oil Price Information Service, costing drivers on average about 30% more for a fill-up than a year earlier.

"We spent about $40.3 billion on gasoline in September of this year. That compares to $30.9 billion in September of last year. Those kinds of numbers really add up," Rozell said.

In other energy news, oil prices continued to tumble, mostly because of fears that Greece would default on its debt payments and add to burdens on other European economies.

The U.S. benchmark, West Texas Intermediate crude, dropped $1.59 to close at $77.61 a barrel, its lowest level since Sept. 28, 2010. The European benchmark, Brent North Sea crude, fell $1.05 to $101.71 a barrel, its lowest close since Feb. 15.

ron.white@latimes.com

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