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No relief in rising gasoline prices as refineries shut down

January 30, 2012|By Ronald D. White
  • Retail gasoline prices are the highest on record for the date. Above, a motorist fills up at a Chevron station in Glendale.
Retail gasoline prices are the highest on record for the date. Above, a motorist… (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles…)

American motorists may well be wondering when, if ever, they will again see a sustained and significant drop in retail gasoline prices. Not in the forseeable future, it seems.

In California, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline has risen another 3.3 cents in the last week, to $3.747, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. That's 39.1 cents a gallon higher than the old record for Jan. 30, set just last year.

Nationally, the average is $3.429, up another 4.3 cents over the past week. That's also 33 cents a gallon higher than last year's record for the date.

Meanwhile, fuel supply sources continue to shrink, particularly in the eastern U.S., negating at least some of the effect of continuing low demand for gasoline in the U.S. In its most recent weekly petroleum report, for example, the Energy Department noted another refinery that was set to close.

"On January 18, Hess announced the closure of its HOVENSA joint venture refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a major source of product supply to the East Coast," the Energy Department said. "That planned closure follows on the heels of the idling of two refineries in the Delaware Valley by Sunoco and ConocoPhillips and announced plans by Sunoco to idle another refinery in the region by mid-2012."

The Energy Department added, "The complete idling of the three refineries would collectively cut as much as 50% of current East Coast refining capacity."

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