California gas prices drop by a half-penny

SUE MANNING, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- California gas prices dipped a half-penny Wednesday, the first drop after a week that saw prices surge a record 50 cents.

The statewide average for regular unleaded was just under $4.67 a gallon, still the highest in the nation, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.

Gas prices rose more than 50 cents a gallon between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8, from $4.168 to a record $4.671, the largest one-week price spike in California history, AAA spokesman Avery Ash said. The previous record was 26.2 cents a gallon in February.

One of the factors that led to the price surge was an August fire at Chevron Corp.'s huge refinery in Richmond, Calif. On Tuesday, the company announced the damaged unit that converts crude oil to gas will remain idle through the end of the year.

Some analysts see this as a sign that prices will remain high, but others are more optimistic because California is switching from an environmentally friendly summer blend to a cheaper winter blend.

Denton Cinquegrana, executive editor of the Oil Price Information Service that helps AAA compile its gas price report, said Chevron's announcement confirmed what analysts expected and shouldn't have any effect on gas prices. The switch to winter blend is more important and should move prices lower, he said.

"I think the worst is in the rearview mirror right now and that between Halloween and Election Day California will be back to where we were before the spike," Cinquegrana said.

Chevron officials did not return calls for comment.

Several lawmakers have called for investigations and hearings to determine whether the price surge was the result of manipulation by oil companies.


Associated Press writer Jason Dearen in San Francisco contributed to this report.