Average gasoline prices in California edged higher in the week ended Monday, snapping a three-week slide in prices at the pump, the Energy Department said.
A dealers group said the increase did not appear to be a precursor to another sustained rise in gas prices but was a reaction to an incident at one Southern California refinery.
The average price for self-serve regular climbed to $1.946 a gallon from $1.931 the previous week, the agency's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report. Prices peaked in the state, at $1.954 a gallon, in the week ended May 14.
Prices gradually had been falling in tandem with a buildup of gasoline inventories that has stemmed from near all-out production by the state's refineries. But analysts had warned that any disruption to a California refinery might send prices higher.
That's what happened May 26, when part of a major refinery in Carson owned by BP, parent of Arco, was shut down because of mechanical problems. The incident briefly lifted the spot, or current market, price of gasoline even though the mishap "didn't have any appreciable effect" on supplies, said Will Woods, executive director of the Automotive Trade Organizations of California, a Tustin-based trade group that represents gasoline dealers.
In turn, the higher spot price worked its way to the pump, in good part because Tosco Corp., which owns the 76 and Circle K brands, recently tied the wholesale prices it charges dealers for gasoline to the spot price, Woods said.
Nationally, gasoline prices fell for the second straight week. The average for self-serve regular declined to $1.647 a gallon from $1.679 a gallon the previous week, the EIA said. Prices in California are higher because of costs related to the state's strict environmental rules covering gasoline.
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Average pump prices in California moved slightly higher in the latest week, ending a three-week decline from record highs reached in mid-May. Weekly figures for average self-serve regular in the state.
June 11: $1.946
Source: Energy Information Administration