Patrick Dehaan, of GasBuddy.com, explains why gas prices suddenly spiked in California and predicts when motorists may start to feel some relief at the pump. Patrick Healy reports from North Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Oct. 05, 2012.
Gas prices in California skyrocketed overnight in some areas, jumping 19 cents per gallon to $4.54 in Los Angeles, and prompting motorists to wait in lines a dozen cars deep to fill up their tanks.
But experts who track fuel costs believe the suddent spike in fuel price is temporary.
"Perhas Sunday we’ll start to see prices stabilize and then early to mid-next week we might see prices fall," said Patrick DeHaan, senior analyst for GasBuddy.com.
Neighborhood Prices: LA Fuel Search
Still, the staggeringly high prices posted at local gas stations induced panic-buying among many Angeleno motorists.
The figures from AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report show the average price of a gallon of fuel across the state at $4.49 per gallon. That's the highest in the country.
The price of $4.539 for a gallon of regular in Los Angeles is the highest since July 12, 2008. In Ventura, the price for a gallon of regular jumped 20 cents from Thursday -- $4.33 to $4.53.
One week ago, the average price for a gallon of regular fuel in Los Angeles was $4.14. One year ago, the average price was $3.82.
Several mishaps at California refineries have been blamed, in part, for the sudden spike, coupled with California's unique demands.
"Things have been pretty tight in California, of course no thanks to the very strict emissions laws," DeHaan said.
The Golden State's emissions laws, which require a special blend of seasonal gasolines be used to curb smog, have helped improve air quality. But they also reduce options when production is interrupted.
"When California faces a supply issue, no one can really run to help," Dehaan said.
As a woman waited in line to fill up at the Burbank Costco, her tank went empty. Four Costco employees pushed her sport utility vehicle to the pump.
Luis Ponce says that Costco received an 8,000-gallon delivery about 30 minutes before he was called in to refill the pumps.
In Calabasas, the price at one station for a gallon of regular was at $5.69.
"I'm not going to pay $5.69 for gas," a driver who stopped at the station told NBC4 early Friday. "Hopefully, I don't have to pay $5.69 when I go down the street."
Some drivers were lining up at stations that had comparatively cheaper gas. At a Costco on Paxton Street in Pacoima, dozens of cars waited in a line that spilled onto the street Friday afternoon.
In San Francisco, a gallon of regular gas is nearly $4.60 after Thursday's average of $4.43. In San Diego, the price for a gallon of regular rose from nearly $4.33 to $4.52 overnight.
The highest recorded average price for a gallon of regular fuel in California was $4.61 in June 2008. The average price for a gallon of regular fuel one year ago in California was $3.818.
The price spikes come after a dramatic increase in wholesale prices for fuel.