California gas prices expected to jump overnight, possibly 30 cents by weekend

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SAN ANSELMO, CA - JUNE 12: A gasoline pump rests in the tank of a car on June 12, 2012 in San Anselmo, California. According to the Energy Department's weekly fuel survey, the average pump price in California dropped 9.6 cents in the past week to bring the price of a gallon of regular gasoline to $4.164 compared to $4.260 one week earlier. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By James F. Peltz and Ivan Penn

The slide in California’s gasoline prices could abruptly end Friday, with prices possibly jumping 30 cents a gallon because of seasonal changes in the state’s refinery operations, a consumer group predicted Thursday.
Prices often climb in California this time of year because refineries switch from the winter blend of fuel to the more expensive state-mandated summer blend, which evaporates less quickly during warm weather.
But this year’s switch to summer gasoline has triggered a jump of 52 cents a gallon on the gasoline wholesale market in Los Angeles this week, which will lead to the higher pump prices predicted by advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.
“The summer blend should not be responsible for more than a few pennies, maybe a dime,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said at a news conference.
Court said motorists should have experienced lower prices earlier but refiners held onto gasoline that should have been made available to the market. With California’s move to the more environmentally friendly summer blend of gasoline ahead of the busy driving season, he said, refiners emptied their inventories of the winter blend they no longer needed, causing prices to fall.
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