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California gas prices are soaring as Labor Day weekend nears

A car fuels up at a gas station.
California gas prices have risen steadily throughout August and are expected to continue climbing heading into Labor Day weekend.
(Rob Nikolewski / San Diego Union-Tribune)
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Gas prices in California have increased throughout August, and drivers hoping to hit the road for Labor Day weekend should expect painful prices at the pump rivaling those seen last summer.

As of Wednesday, the average price for a regular gallon of gasoline in California was $5.26, according to AAA. That’s up about 8 cents from last week and about 37 cents from a month ago.

At this time last year, drivers were paying about $5.32 a gallon at the pump, on average.

“Drivers in Los Angeles are already paying more today than what they were paying last year,” said Anlleyn Venegas, a spokesperson for the Automobile Club of Southern California.

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Gas prices spiked in July due to supply issues and the high cost of oil, officials said at the time, and climbed past $5 a gallon in early August. Statewide, gas prices are still a few cents below what they were last year, on average, Venegas added.

All counties are averaging above $5 per gallon for regular-grade fuel.

March 6, 2022

In the Los Angeles-Long Beach region, the average price for a gallon was about $5.36 as of Wednesday. Those fueling up in neighboring San Bernardino County are seeing prices about 9 cents cheaper, on average.

California’s most expensive fuel can be found in Mono County, which has surpassed $6 a gallon on average, AAA data show.

California and its West Coast neighbors typically have gasoline prices that are among the highest in the country. The national average was about $3.85 per gallon, as of Wednesday.

The recent rise in the cost of gas comes as bookings ahead of the Labor Day weekend show Americans are itching to go on vacation, continuing a recent trend of holiday travel returning to levels not seen since before the pandemic, according to AAA.

Although AAA does not have official numbers, Venegas said large numbers of drivers were expected to hit the road to mark the “unofficial end of summer.”

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High California gas prices and accusations of price gouging play into Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to cap oil refinery profits in California.

Dec. 11, 2022

Labor Day weekend travel is up across the country compared with last year, according to AAA. Association data show bookings for flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises for domestic travel are up 4% from 2022, and international bookings are up 44%.

Experts expect the roads to be busiest on Thursday, Aug. 31, between 2 and 6 p.m., according to AAA. Sept. 1 is also expected to have higher-than-normal levels of traffic as drivers try to get a head start on the long weekend.

According to AAA, drivers headed out of Los Angeles toward Bakersfield on Interstate 5 should expect significant delays starting Wednesday afternoon.

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