Gas Pump Fill-upRVers planning to travel the West Coast  in the next few weeks may want to adjust their fuel budgets up. Gasoline prices, now averaging $3.88 a gallon in California, $3.72 in Washington and $3.69 in Oregon, could surge to $4.15 to $4.25 a gallon over the next week to 10 days following Monday’s partial shutdown of a Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif.

Nationally, gasoline prices have climbed 27 cents a gallon in the past month. While the refinery fire will drive prices along the West Coast, it will also lift the national average — now $3.65 a gallon — above year-ago levels.

“August looks like a very touch-and-go month for the entire country,” says Oil Price Information Service energy analyst Tom Kloza, who expects price relief after Labor Day. For the year to date, gasoline has averaged $3.61 a gallon — 10 cents more than 2011’s full year average, the most expensive year ever, he says.

Patrick DeHaan, senior oil analyst for gasbuddy.com, expects California, Oregon and western Washington state to experience price spikes like the ones that hit major parts of the Midwest in June, when an Illinois refinery shut down and three others in the state cut production.

“The West Coast is on the launch pad waiting for takeoff,” DeHaan says. “We’re talking over $4 a gallon, easily. It’s not going to be good for motorists.”

Monday’s refinery fire caused billowing smoke for miles, prompting hundreds of nearby residents to seek medical care for eye irritation and breathing issues.

The blaze in the refinery’s No. 4 Crude Unit was contained in about five hours, Chevron said, although there was a minor flareup Wednesday. Three employees suffered minor injuries.

Source USAToday



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