The increases aren't anywhere near as sharp as what we saw last October, but the recent quarter-a-gallon bump is getting some attention. Average price of a gallon of regular in the L.A. area is $4.017, according to the Auto Club, up from $3.769 a week ago. The numbers are likely to keep rising for at least another couple of weeks, though not close to the all-time high of $4.69 on Oct. 9. The grab-bag explanations include higher oil prices, refineries undergoing routine maintenance as they prepare to switch to the cleaner-burning summer blend, and the bidding up of prices by investors. Typically, prices peak out before Memorial Day, though in recent years the movements have been less predictable. From the Auto Club press release:
"The usual culprits are being listed as reasons for the spike - high oil prices, Middle East tension, local refinery incidents and refineries being brought down for maintenance as they prepare to produce the summer blend of gasoline," said Auto Club spokesperson Jeffrey Spring. "But perhaps equally if not more importantly, say oil industry analysts, financial market managers see refined gasoline as a 'sure bet' for their clients' portfolios. Big investment money is flowing earlier and earlier into gasoline trading, ahead of the usual 'spring spike.' Southern California is a particularly vulnerable market for shortages because it has no inexpensive alternatives if local refinery production is down, and traders are aware of this."