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18-cent spike in L.A. drives gas prices over $4 a gallon

18-cent spike in L.A. drives gas prices over $4 a gallon
Sign at a gas station in Los Angeles in happier times, gas-price-wise. (Nick Ut / AP)

It was nice while it lasted.

For the first time in nearly a year, Los Angeles motorists on average are now shelling out more than $4 for a gallon of gas. The average for regular has shot up 18 cents in the last week, a surge analysts attribute to a series of problems at the state's refineries.

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Following a February explosion, production still hasn't returned to normal at Exxon Mobil Corp.'s Torrance refinery, said Allison Mac, an analyst with price tracking website GasBuddy. And in recent weeks, other refineries have trimmed output for planned and unplanned maintenance, she said.

Experts say California drivers are highly susceptible to such disruptions because the state is a relative island when it comes to gasoline production. California's special cleaner-burning blend is expensive for outsiders to make and deliver, causing most production to occur within the state.

And the state's refineries often produce gasoline at near capacity, leaving little margin for supply disruptions.

On Friday, a gallon of regular averaged $4.016 in L.A. County, up from $3.996 a day earlier, according to GasBuddy.

There could be some relief on the horizon.

AAA spokesman Jeffrey Spring said gas supplies are being shipped to California from Asian and Canadian refineries. But he cautioned that they are unlikely to arrive before late May and “probably not before many gas stations post $4-plus prices.”

Follow me on Twitter: @khouriandrew

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