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High gas prices are crimping travel plans for some Southern Californians

Southern California gas prices continue to rise as Memorial Day looms closer and one industry expert predicts this will be the priciest summer in four years.
GasBuddy’s 2018 Summer Travel survey says escalating fuel costs are prompting more people to plan staycations instead of hitting the road. Only 58 percent of Americans are planning a road trip this summer, a 24 percent drop from the 82 percent who planned trips last year, the report said.
That doesn’t surprise Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis.
“It’s no shock as we continue to see higher prices in all 50 states,” he said. “It’s been sticker shock the last few months.”
The priciest summer since 2014?
DeHaan said motorists may see some relief in mid-June although he expects this summer’s fuel prices to be the highest since 2014 when gas prices peaked at $4.25 a gallon.
Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed cited high gas prices as the primary reason for curbing their summer travel. Pump prices throughout the Southland are up double digits from last month and are nearly 70 cents more per gallon than a year ago, according to GasBuddy.
DeHaan tied the trend to a number of factors, including long-term OPEC production cuts, the U.S. exiting the Iran nuclear deal, declining U.S. oil inventories and high demand. Motorists are becoming increasingly price-conscious, he said, and more Americans will probably cut back on their summer travel plans in the coming weeks as prices show no sign of slowing.

The nation’s highest gas prices
On Tuesday, California posted the nation’s highest average price of $3.70 a gallon, up 14.4 cents from a week ago and up nearly 60 cents from a year earlier. California was followed by Hawaii ($3.69), Washington ($3.42), Alaska ($3.36), Nevada ($3.32) and Idaho ($3.16)
While those prices are well above the national average of $2.94 a gallon, many Southland stations are charging considerably more.
Local pump prices are steeper
A Mobil station at 10863 W. Olympic Blvd. in Los Angeles listed regular at $4.69 a gallon on Tuesday, while a Union 76 in Pasadena was selling it for $4.59. Nine more stations scattered throughout Los Angeles Angeles County listed regular at $4.39 a gallon or more.
The same trend is playing out in the Inland Empire and in Orange County.
In San Bernardino County, a Union 76 in Barstow and a Shell station in Yermo were selling regular for $4.49 a gallon. In Orange County, an Arco at 2245 S. Main St. in Santa Ana posted regular for $4.09 a gallon, while other outlets in Fullerton, Anaheim, San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach priced it at $3.99 a gallon.
Tactics to deal with high gas prices
Aaron Bayle, who lives in Carson and commutes to his marketing job in Pasadena each day, said rising prices are pushing him toward purchasing a hybrid vehicle.
“Right now I have a 2007 Nissan Versa and the gas mileage is terrible,” he said. “I have to fill it up twice a week. But I figured one thing out — I go to the gym right after work before driving home. That way I don’t get on the freeway until about 7 p.m., so I’m not sitting there in rush-hour traffic for an hour and a half wasting gas.”
Light trucks, SUVs outselling cars
While hybrids and electric cars get the best mileage, light trucks and SUVs are outselling them in Southern California.
Figures from the Southland Motor Car Dealers Association show that sales of light trucks and SUVs rose 2 percent through March of this year while car sales were down 15 percent, and they accounted for nearly 48 percent of the market.
“Gas prices are inching up but the mileage for light trucks and SUVs is also increasing,” said Todd Leutheuser, the association’s executive director. “Many of the SUVs are on a regular car chassis.”
California’s refinery stocks, production in good shape
Figures from the  California Energy Commission  show the Golden State’s supply of specially formulated summer gas is in good shape. For the week ended May 11 (the most recent period for which data is available), the state’s refineries had nearly 7.4 million barrels in stock, a 32 percent increase over 5.6 million barrels a year earlier.
Refinery production is also up. For the same week, production of the summer blend also stood at nearly 7.4 million barrels compared with less than 6.6 million barrels during the same week last year.
Officials with the energy commission said refinery operations in California are normal with only some limited planned maintenance underway. Production and inventory levels are both above the top of the 5-year high-low range, they said.
Anger over the gas tax
Scores of Californians have signed a petition to repeal the Golden State’s most recent 12-cent gas tax.  Supporters need 585,407 valid voter signatures to get the repeal question on the November ballot and an estimated 900,000 signed petitions have been submitted for verification.
The tax increase and an accompanying vehicle fee were approved by the state Legislature and signed into law in April 2017 by Gov. Jerry Brown to generate roughly $5.2 billion a year for road upgrades and transit repairs.
Golden State motorists pay more than 73 cents per gallon in local, state and federal gas taxes — a 15 cent increase over 2017, according to a report last month from GasBuddy.
That’s the second highest amount in the nation. The Golden State ranks second only to Pennsylvania where motorists pay more than 77 cents per gallon in gas taxes.

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