A week ago, Santa Rosa’s average price for regular gasoline was $4.15 a gallon,  AAA said. On Monday, it was $4.195. Yesterday, it was $4.25. What’s going on?

Refinery problems and market jitters are to blame, says Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analysts with gasbuddy.com.

And prices may keep climbing for at least a couple of weeks, he warns.

Bloomberg News Service reported that Exxon Mobile’s 150,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Torrance near Los Angeles lost power on Monday; Chevron’s Richmond refinery is still operating below capacity because of an Aug. 6 fire; Phillps 66 is doing maintenance at refineries in Rodeo in the East Bay and in Arroyo Grande; and a Chevron oil pipeline from Kern County to Bay Area refineries was shut after high levels of organic chloride were detected in the oil.

All that cut gasoline production in California, and “the market essentially panicked,” DeHaan said, noting that when supply suddenly drops, prices tend to jump.

That panic sent wholesale gas prices soaring $1 a gallon over the last eight days in California, DeHaan said, noting he’s never seen it spike so high so quickly.

Retail gas prices have risen only 15 to 20 cents in the same time, DeHaan said, and unless wholesale prices starting dropping fast, motorists should brace themselves for even higher price jumps at the pump.

He said his “guess” is that prices will climb for at least two weeks before declining, barring further production problems.


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