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Southern California gas prices forecast to rise as summer approaches

Southern California gas prices expected to stay comparatively low for rest of year but tick up in spring

Southern California drivers can expect gas prices to stay comparatively low for the rest of the year, though they are likely to rise from their current levels as summer approaches.

That’s the assessment of GasBuddy.com, which tracks local fuel prices.

While long-range gasoline predictions are difficult to make because of unforeseeable events such as refinery fires, global supply disruptions and geopolitical tensions, GasBuddy predicts prices will drift higher in spring when refiners switch to the special formulation sold in California to reduce pollution in the summer months.

Prices in L.A. should settle into a range of $3.20 to $3.45 a gallon for regular gasoline between Memorial Day and Labor Day but could peak above that at times, GasBuddy said.

Los Angeles gas prices averaged $2.569 this week, down $1.11 from last year.

“Gasoline prices this week collapsed to levels not seen since December 2008 -- when average retail Los Angeles gas prices were $1.70 to $1.80 per gallon,” said Jeffrey Spring of the Automobile Club of Southern California. 

Drivers should "aggressively" shop for the lowest gas price "to encourage further quick drops at their local stations," Spring said. 

A "good" price for gas today is between $2.25 and $2.40 per gallon in most Southern California areas, he said.

Prices tend to be highest in the northern and eastern areas of the metropolitan area, including Santa Monica, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Glendale and Pasadena, according to GasBuddy. They tend to be lowest in the south and the southeast, including Hawthorne, Downey, Compton, Long Beach, Whittier and Glendora.

The Los Angeles area was the ninth-most expensive out of 444 U.S. metropolitan areas tracked by GasBuddy in 2014. The annual average finished at $3.781 per gallon, down 15 cents from 2013, and stood at its lowest level since 2010.

Still there are 21 U.S. states where prices average below $2 a gallon, according to AAA

Most analysts are predicting oil prices will stay low this year.

Corporate credit rating agency Moody’s Corp. on Friday said it expected to see Brent crude oil sell for $55 per barrel through 2015 before climbing to $65 a barrel in 2016. West Texas Intermediate oil will be even lower -- $52 a barrel in 2015, rising to $62 in 2016.

“At the start of 2015, crude prices of about $50 per barrel reflected factors including growing non-OPEC supply, supply outpacing demand worldwide and Saudi Arabia’s decision not to keep acting as OPEC’s swing producer,” said Steve Wood, Moody’s managing director. “While we see no catalysts that would change the supply-demand equation in the near term, our long-term oil price assumptions reflect our view that prices will eventually rebound.”

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