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Nearly $5 a gallon: Record gas prices in Los Angeles, Orange counties

A man holds a gas pump hose.
The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in Los Angeles County hit $4.70 on Monday, a record high for the 10th time in the last 11 days.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
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Drivers aren’t getting any love at the pump this Valentine’s Day.

Gas prices in Los Angeles and Orange counties have reached record highs as geopolitical tensions send crude oil prices soaring at a time when more people are looking to hit the the road.

California currently has the most expensive gas in the nation.

The average price of a regular gallon in Los Angeles and Long Beach was a record $4.77 Monday, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

That is an increase of 3 cents from a week ago, 9 cents from a month ago and a whopping $1.22 from a year ago, said Doug Shupe, a spokesperson for AAA.

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To put it into perspective, the driver of a mid-sized sedan with a 14-gallon tank is paying about $17 more to fill up than last year, Shupe said.

Prices are so high — and consumers are so perplexed — that a Google search of “Why are gas prices going up?” has spiked this month.

Oct. 22, 2021

Orange County residents are also feeling pain at the pump. The average price of a gallon of regular gas is $4.74, also a record.

The current California average price of $4.70 a gallon is more than a dollar above the national average of roughly $3.49.

California’s taxes and environmental requirements typically make its gas prices among the priciest in the nation. The next highest prices in the U.S. are Hawaii, Washington state, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois.

“Drivers are used to higher prices in California, but certainly what we’ve been seeing over the last couple of weeks is raising eyebrows,” Shupe said.

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“These increases, week after week, it can be frustrating,” he added. “It’s tough for families right now, and for many people right now, because of rising prices in many other areas.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom in January proposed pausing gas and diesel fuel tax inflation-related increases planned for July.

The scheduled increases in 2023 and 2024 also could be delayed “should economic conditions warrant it,” according to Newsom’s budget.

However, there’s no immediate relief in sight.

Shupe said the main driver of the latest surge is an increase in crude prices amid red-hot geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Crude oil is now more than $90 per barrel.

Warm weather and optimism that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is fading also have contributed, Shupe said. As people feel safer and temperatures creep up, more people start planning road trips, Shupe said.

With spring break around the corner, demand for gas is expected to rise, further driving up prices, he said.

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Motorists can take steps maximize their fuel efficiency, potentially saving money at the pump.

Here are some tips from AAA:

  • Make sure your vehicle is running properly, including maintaining the correct tire pressure.
  • Remove excess weight from inside the car, such as golf clubs or boxes of paperwork.
  • Pack all items inside the car for a trip, instead of traveling with an overhead bin that creates drag.
  • Adjust your driving habits, including slowing down and avoid jack-rabbit turns.
  • Park in the shade or use a sun screen so your don’t need to crank the A/C.
  • Combine errands into fewer trips during the day.
  • Shop around for the cheapest gas prices.
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