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Gov. Brown Acts to Ease Gas Crunch

He orders an immediate switch to winter-blend gasoline, which should boost supplies and lower prices.

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered California smog regulators to allow an immediate switch to winter-blend gasoline, a move designed to ease the supply crunch that sent prices skyrocketing nearly 50 cents a gallon in six days.

On Sunday, the governor ordered the California Air Resources Board to allow refineries and gas stations to roll out winter gasoline before its previously scheduled Oct. 31 sales date. That should boost gas supplies 8-10 percent "with only negligible air-quality impacts," Brown said.

In a letter released at noon, Brown said the supply crunch threatened "significant economic disruption and serious harm to public safety and welfare."

An analyst said California's wholesale gasoline market had gone "into a panic about the adequacy of California fuel supplies." In an interview with City News Service, Jeffrey Spring of the Automobile Club of Southern California blamed the squeeze on a power failure at ExxonMobil's Torrance refinery and the shutdown of a Chevron pipeline that moves crude oil to Northern California last Monday.

Other factors include local refineries dropping production levels, energy companies exporting fuel to Mexico and other countries, and allowing inventory to dwindle in anticipation of switching over to production of winter blend gasoline, Spring said.

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in Los Angeles County hit a record $4.661 a gallon Saturday, up 12.2 cents from Friday. In Orange County, it settled at 1 penny lower than L.A. Local prices jumped another 4 cents Sunday.

An analyst quoted in the L.A. Times predicted prices would drop 15 to 20 cents because of Brown's order, although it may take a few days to kick in.

Some environmentalists worried the move would hurt air quality in October, traditionally one of the hottest months in coastal California because of Santa Ana winds and other seasonal fluctuations.

Winter gas evaporates more quickly and is believed to increase smog in hot weather. California isn't the only state with custom gasoline formulas. In Arizona, for instance, Tucson uses a similar oxygenated blend during winter, and Phoenix stations pump it year-round. By one estimate, 34 states use special gasoline blends, typically during summer months.

Brown said he expected California prices to settle down now that the ExxonMobil refinery has resumed operations. A Tesoro refinery in the South Bay is also expected to resume production next week, after a maintenance shutdown.

Previously on Patch: Gas Shortage Hits OC Costcos

Joker Joe October 08, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Easier to complain then get off the couch. Watch how many get up to vote against taxes and the president in Nov. You will be amazed!!!!
Kime Goodrum October 08, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Governor Brown orders switch to lower prices; give me a break!! Ever look at the gas pump when you buy gas? It says right on there on the pump that from October 1st till (Sorry I don’t remember the end date) that the gasoline pumped from this pump will be oxygenated in compliance with California law. He had nothing to do with it as it was going to happen anyway. While I can’t find it online right now as all the headlines are the high gas prices and our wonderful governor I have read before about how many of our counties require their own special blend of gasoline. I don’t recall the exact number of counties that do it, maybe 25? Now there is a big reason prices are high.
Roy Rivenburg October 08, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Kime, the usual date is Oct. 31, not Oct. 1. Brown moved things up by 3+ weeks. The story also notes that more than 30 other states also use custom blends of some sort, usually in summer.
Laguna Streets October 08, 2012 at 09:18 PM
"significant economic disruption and serious harm to public safety and welfare." You ain't seen nothing yet. In Laguna Beach like other parts of the nation, there are mobility advocates promoting a new transportation plan that relies less on the automobile and more on your feet, cycling and public transportation. Europe has such a plan in many cities, we need to adopt the plan here. A mobility economy based on petroleum is a dead economy, the sooner we shift away from petroleum the better. For more info and the benefits of this plan, look-up "Complete Streets".
Gabrielle Block October 08, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Your comment is somewhat misleading. Yes, the price of gasoline went down to $1.89 towards the end of 2008 - after the economy crashed, but it wasn't anywhere near that low at ANY other time during the Bush administration. In fact, the price of gasoline had risen to around $4.40 by June of 2008, and crashed during the second half of the year. Brown is hoping that what he is doing will decrease the price by a limited amount and for a limited period of time, in response to local conditions. However, over the long run, prices are affected more by the world market for oil. And by the way, your description of how Bush supposedly 'was never called "president" by those who hated him with a Klan-like passion' fits even more aptly the attitude of some people towards president Obamam.

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