LOS ANGELES—Here in the land of perpetually jammed freeways, filling up downtown sets you back $5.09 a gallon. While the national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $3.36, you’d be hard pressed to find anything cheaper than $4 in L.A.
Californians are used to paying some of the highest energy prices in the country, especially in this sprawling city. Not coincidentally, they’re also living in the state most committed to combatting climate change, slashing fossil-fuel consumption, and ramping up renewable energy.
Over the past two years, California gas prices have continued to soar, sparking some of the highest prices in the nation.
Oil companies are quick to point the finger at supply and demand, oil markets or the state’s clean air laws as causes for recent spikes, but don’t be fooled. These reasons merely serve as smokescreens to a much larger problem facing consumers at the pump – potential price manipulation.
However, for those concerned about gasoline following the oil price spike over the past few days, there’s possible relief in sight.
A series of rail terminals proposed by California’s biggest oil refiners could dramatically increase the supply of crude oil from the Canadian tar sands into the state, potentially posing major health hazards to local communities.
In recent weeks, Valero, Tesoro, and Phillips 66 have all announced plans to build rail facilities that could eventually bring as much as 286,000 barrels of dirty oil per day from the Canadian tar sands into California refineries – roughly five 100-car trains full of oil every day.
In the absence of statewide regulations for hydraulic fracturing, Southern California air-quality officials have enacted their own reporting rules for the controversial extraction process driving the country’s oil and gas boom.
On Friday, the governing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District adopted a rulethat requires oil companies to notify the air agency 10 days to 24 hours before beginning drilling operations, including “fracking,” which involves injecting large volumes of chemical-laced water and sand deep into the ground to break apart rock and release oil.
Oil refiners are sending greater amounts of an especially dirty crude oil product called “tar sands” to their Southern California refineries.
Now environmental groups want regulators to take a closer look
Tar sands hold a kind of semi-solid petroleum. To refine it enough for California standards takes more processing. Oil companies – including Valero, Tesoro and Conoco Phillips – say they’re bringing in more of this raw material because liquid petroleum in California is drying up.
Valero Energy Corp. has notified California environmental officials that it will need to flare gases at its Wilmington refinery for the next two days.
Valero is required to notify the South Coast Air Quality Management District, an air pollution control agency, whenever it needs to conduct flaring that would exceed daily limits. The flaring will be necessary while repair work is being conducted on a valve at a storage facility.
Researchers in Europe have confirmed scientifically what parents in traffic-congested Southern California have known anecdotally for years: Poor air quality associated with busy roads can cause asthma in children.
The study, which examined children’s health in 10 cities, concluded that 14% of chronic childhood asthma cases could be attributed to near-road traffic pollution. It is the first time that medical researchers have made such a direct link — previous studies stopped at saying that traffic pollution is known to trigger asthma, not cause it.
NEW YORK — The U.S. is increasing its oil production faster than ever, and American drivers are guzzling less gas. But you’d never know it from the price at the pump.
The national average price of gasoline is $3.69 per gallon and forecast to creep higher, possibly approaching $4 by May.
“I just don’t get it,” says Steve Laffoon, a part-time mental health worker, who recently paid $3.59 per gallon to fill up in St. Louis.
U.S. oil output rose 14 percent to 6.5 million barrels per day last year – a record increase. By 2020, the nation is forecast to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest crude oil producer. At the same time, U.S. gasoline demand has fallen to 8.7 million barrels a day, its lowest level since 2001, as people switch to more fuel-efficient cars.
With average gasoline prices topping $4 a gallon, fewer Southern California residents say they plan to take a leisure trip over spring break, according to a survey by the Auto Club of Southern California.
The annual survey of Auto Club members found that 47% said they plan at least one leisure trip this spring break season, compared to 57% in 2012 and 55% in 2011.
SAN ANTONIO–Valero Energy Corp. VLO -4.27% won’t try to sell its two California refineries but will instead attempt to bring in low-priced, domestically produced crude to make them more profitable, the company’s chief executive said.
Last year, Valero was said to be trying to sell its 170,000 barrels-a-day Benicia refinery outside San Francisco and its 78,000 barrels-a-day Wilmington refinery outside Los Angeles as refiners in the state were preparing to deal with the impact of stringent emissions laws.