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LA Gas Stations Running Out of Fuel, Prices Skyrocket

Even mass-retailer Costco shuts down the pumps.

In a Costco store in San Dimas, cars piled into the store's gas station Thursday evening. Some cars were lined all the way out into the street, while elsewhere in Los Angeles County, independent stations are turning away customers.

A combination of West Coast refinery failures and a shortage of summer-formulated fuel have put the squeeze on retailers just as the average price of a gallon of self-serve regular in Los Angeles County recorded its largest daily increase since at least 2008.

Rising 8.8 cents to $4.347 Thursday, the price is the highest since May 22.

Some independent stations in Calabasas ran out of unleaded fuel on Oct. 2, according to Bloomberg. And the wholesale price stations pay has risen by as much as 73 cents in some markets over the last week.

Bob van der Valk, an independent petroleum industry analyst, told KNX radio, “Right now, gas stations are trying to wean out what they have of the 'summer blend.' There is absolutely none available.”

Refineries have already switched over to “winter blend,” which burns cleaner at cooler temperatures, but can't be sold in California because of clean-air rules until after Halloween. 

Van der Valk said a refinery fire in Richmond in September and a power failure at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance has squeezed the availability of fuel.

“Costco just ran out of gasoline even though they’re being supplied by Chevron,” he said. “Apparently, they have a limit on that, and then they’ll buy on the open market at whatever price they can get.”

Greg Bond, assistant warehouse manager at the Simi Valley Costco, told the Daily News that the shortage hit on Wednesday.

"We're down 100 percent from yesterday. There are definitely some supply issues out there. Unfortunately I don't know how long it will take to fix at this point," he said.

With the shortage, prices are on the rise. A West Covina station was already charging $5.31 a gallon for regular gas on Thursday, GasBuddy.com reported.

The average price of self-serve regular gasdoline has increased by more than 1 cent on each of the past six days and is 20.7 cents more than a week ago, 17.4 cents higher than a month ago and 51.4 cents greater than at this time last year, according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service.

"California is ground zero for one of the most dramatic price spikes in a while," Tom Kloza, chief analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, told KTLA5.

-- City News Service contributed to this report.

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Gayle M. Montgomery October 07, 2012 at 08:00 AM
Friday morning, westbound traffic on Huntington west of Azusa, before Irwindale just sludged. It was like somebody poured superviscous oil, and nobody was going anywhere fast. While I can't discount the potential they may have been spillover traffic from an accident on the 210 (I don't know), many had this stupid, "Now what do I do now look." At 7:30 in the morning, the usually open Costco gas station was barricaded off, and there was no gas to be had. It was a good time to review the energy crisis of the 70s with the grandkids and explain to them the concept of Odd/Even Rationing. Been here, done that, this, too, shall pass.
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