- Associated Press - Saturday, October 6, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The price of gasoline equaled the all-time average high in California of $4.61 a gallon Saturday, fueled by a reduced supply and a volatile market.

Prices throughout the state were expected to increase for several more days before leveling off, after a temporary reduction in supply triggered a price spike that saw fuming motorists paying $5 or more per gallon in some locations and station owners shutting down pumps in others.

AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge report released Saturday said the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded across California rose 12 cents from its Friday mark of about $4.49.

Saturday’s price, the highest in the nation, equaled the record average high for California set in June 2008 of $4.61.

The Golden State leapfrogged Hawaii as the state with the most expensive fuel. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded across California was 47 cents more than a week ago, according to the AAA report.

The national average Saturday was about $3.81 a gallon, the highest ever for this time of year. However, gas prices in many other states have started decreasing, which is typical for October.

The dramatic surge came because of a power outage Monday at a Southern California refinery reduced supply in an already fragile and volatile market, analysts said, but the refinery came back online Friday and prices were expected to stabilize by next week.

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, predicted the average price could peak as high as $4.85.

“There is some relief in sight but probably not for a couple of days. Early next week is when we may see some more significant declines … but at retail prices, prices may climb for the next two to three days before they start to come down,” he said.

While prices were higher everywhere in California, there were variances Saturday. Chico had the lowest average price at $4.46, according to AAA, while San Luis Obispo was highest at $4.71. Prices averaged $4.67 in San Diego, $4.66 in the Los Angeles area, $4.55 in Fresno and $4.49 in Sacramento.

Rebecca Olson, 43, of Irvine, drove to a Costco in Tustin on Friday hoping to find lower prices than the $4.65 in her neighborhood, but the pumps were closed.

The part-time preschool teacher said her husband already spends $500 a month on gas, in part because he commutes nearly 100 miles a day to a new sales job after being unemployed for a year.

“All of this is killing us, just because we’ve got big cars,” she said.

They’ve already parked their GMC Yukon SUV indefinitely. If gas prices keep rising, Olson said they’ll sell her husband’s Infiniti G35 that requires premium fuel and buy a more efficient car, while making their children ride their bikes to their activities.

“Just last night, we were looking at economical cars, we were car shopping,” she said.

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