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Gas price jumps to new record high in SLO County

Conserv Fuel, next to Santa Rosa Park in San Luis Obispo, has the gas pumps closed and no prices posted.
Conserv Fuel, next to Santa Rosa Park in San Luis Obispo, has the gas pumps closed and no prices posted. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The week's surge in gas prices has sent the average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded in San Luis Obispo County to a new record high of $4.70 per gallon.

The AAA Fuel Tracker report issued this morning found the county's average to be the highest in the state in a week when gas prices jumped dramatically.

Just a week ago, SLO County's average price stood at $4.21, the AAA report said. A year ago, gas cost $3.88.

San Luis Obispo County's previous record high was $4.68 per gallon, set in June of 2008.

The price spike occurred literally overnight: Friday's average countywide was $4.54, the report noted.

Fuel analysts say a combination of factors are causing the rapid price run-up: Refinery and transmission problems exist, and the inventory of California's cleaner-burning fuel is at its lowest point in more than a decade.

Because of the requirement for the cleaner-burning fuel, mandated by state air regulators to combat smog, California cannot import gas from elsewhere, analysts said.

One result has been independent gas stations in SLO County and elsewhere in the state refusing to purchase gasoline at the higher wholesale cost. These stations, like the Conserv Fuel stations on Broad and Santa Rosa Streets in San Luis Obispo, have stopped selling fuel to motorists.

But the state Energy Commission said Friday that the price pain should ease in the coming week and that the state has enough fuel to meet demand.

Exxon Mobil announced it would resume refining at its Torrance plant after an unplanned shutdown.

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