LOS ANGELES — California drivers are reeling from days of sharp gasoline price increases that left the state within reach of its record high. Economists warn that a prolonged period of elevated gas costs could harm consumers as the holiday shopping season kicks in.
Analysts attributed the price surge to fuel traders’ emotional reaction after a series of refinery outages and other problems, including a Northern California refinery fire, a Southern California refinery blackout, pipeline contamination and other events. Some service stations were charging more than $5 a gallon and others stopped buying new supplies out of fear that if the market turned they would lose money.
“I haven’t seen a series of incidents like this, and it has led to the worst panic-driven rise in gasoline prices that I have seen in 35 years," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service.
Prices are likely to set records over the weekend, analysts said, but they held out hope that the pain could end soon as fuel production problems subside.