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California gasoline prices may be dropping very soon

Times Staff Writer

California motorists bludgeoned by the nation’s second highest retail gasoline prices may finally see some relief in the coming days.

That’s because the price for the nation’s most expensive raw or unfinished gasoline, known as CARBOB, has been plumetting from its February highs, according to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service in New Jersey.

CARBOB is an acronym for a fairly ridiculous mouthful: California Reformulated Gasoline Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending.

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Overnight, the CARBOB price fell 17 cents to $3.24 a gallon. That’s down 51 cents from the $3.75 recorded on Feb. 24. This is considered important because one usually adds about 60 cents to 70 cents of costs in reaching the finished brand of CARBOB sold at service stations.

That translates to a price of about $3.84 to $3.94 for a gallon of regular gasoline. Of course, that’s hardly inexpensive, but it may indicate that prices in the state have peaked, for now.

“California is often the first market in the country to peak,” said Kloza, “and the trend spreads from west to east. We’re still looking at more increases in prices in states east of the Rockies, but this is a notable development that should eliminate the insane predictions of $5-a-gallon gasoline.”

One unanswered question will be what happens in the Eastern U.S., where a number of refinery closings have tightened supply considerably.

California’s retail prices were still rising slightly Wednesday, up 0.2 cents a gallon overnight to an average of $4.363 for a gallon of regular gasoline, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. That’s 40.1 cents a gallon higher than a year ago. Nationally, the average climbed 0.6 cents overnight to $3.811. A year ago, the national average was $3.556 a gallon.

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