The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline rose 5.9 cents in the Inland Empire today, the steepest jump since Oct. 6, hitting $3.864, the highest price since Nov. 10.
The average price in Riverside and San Bernardino counties has increased on six of the last seven days, including a hefty 3.8 cents Thursday. It is 16.4 cents more than one week ago, 27.6 cents higher than one month ago and 10.6 cents greater than one year ago, according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service.
"The usual culprits are being listed as reasons for the spike -- high oil prices, Middle East tension, local refinery incidents and refineries being brought down for maintenance as they prepare to produce the summer blend of gasoline," said Jeffrey Spring of the Automobile Club of Southern California.
"But perhaps equally if not more importantly, say oil industry analysts, financial market managers see refined gasoline as a `sure bet' for their clients' portfolios. Big investment money is flowing earlier and earlier into gasoline trading, ahead of the usual `spring spike.'
"Southern California is a particularly vulnerable market for shortages because it has no inexpensive alternatives if local refinery production is down, and traders are aware of this."