California gasoline prices have dropped by an average of 24.4 cents a gallon since hitting a record for the state on Oct. 9. But the decline hardly amounts to the relief from high prices that most motorists would love to see.
Even with the drop in prices, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline in California is still a whopping 56.5 cents a gallon higher than the old record for Oct. 22, which was set last year, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
California's average was also still high enough to beat Hawaii ($4.424 a gallon) as the nation's most expensive gasoline.
Today, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline in California is $4.427, the AAA Fuel Gauge Report said. That's a decline of 18.2 cents a gallon since last week.
On its way up to a record average of $4.671 a gallon, the state's gasoline prices jumped 17.1 cents in just one night.
The California Energy Commission said that the price surge was due in part to a power outage that shut down ExxonMobil's Torrance refinery at a time when the state was near five-year lows in refinery production and fuel supplies.
At this time last year, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline in the state was $3.862.
Meanwhile, another big player in the California refinery industry may be looking for buyers and hoping to leave the state.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. was looking for buyers for at least two of the refineries it operates in California.
Valero has a 132,000 barrel a day refinery in Benicia, Calif. that it acquired in 2000. It also owns a 78,000 barrel a day refinery in Wlimington. Both of those facilities produce gasoline and diesel for the California market.
Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst for Oppenheimer and Co., said that Valero is looking for buyers because of a looming regulatory requirement in California that will require refinery emissions to match 1990 levels by 2020.
"California has been and will continue to be a difficult state to do business in" because of such regulatory hurdles, said Gheit, but he added that Valero will probably be able to find a buyer.
Valero also owns the small, 6,300 barrel a day Wilmington Asphalt Refinery.