La Mesa gas station owner lowers gas prices ahead of possible price drop

SAN DIEGO - The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in San Diego County again rose to a record high Monday, but the increase of 1.3 cents to $4.725 may indicate that prices will soon fall.

The increase was the smallest during a six-day span that has seen the price rise 54.7 cents, including 3.8 cents on Sunday, according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service.

The average price has set records for three consecutive days and is 56.3 cents more than one week ago, 56.6 cents higher than one month ago and 92.7 cents greater than one year ago.

On Monday, 10News visited Emerald Oil gas station in La Mesa, where owner Dave Hallak decided not to wait to lower his gas prices.

Hallak told 10News, "My supplier called me and said that prices are dropping 20 to 50 cents, so I'm taking a chance that it'll go to 50 [cents], and I want to get rid of all I have so I can buy at the lower rate."

"I'm the lowest in San Diego, so people love it … So I'm offering the mid-grade for the same price so we can honor the price that we have outside right now," said Hallak.

"I just passed by and saw it and saw how cheap it was, so I figured I needed to fill up. Because by my house, which is right down the street, it's about 40-cents more," said driver Tineshia Kelly. "I was praying and hoping it wouldn't make it to the $5 mark, so I'm hoping it'll go back down but, I don't know, we'll see."

La Mesa resident Arthur Duffy said, "Saturday morning it was $4.99, now its $4.29, 70 cents in less than 48 hours … I think the whole thing was manipulated by either the refineries or the oil companies or both."

Customer Bob Brook was happy about Hallak's prices, and he told 10News, "I think it's great … $4.29 for midgrade, it's sending a statement. I appreciate it. It's good stuff."

"I got a smile on my face today; I was frowning some days ago, last week, so this is good," driver Chris Chaney said of Hallak's prices.

Down the street, a Shell station was selling a gallon of regular unleaded for $4.69. At a 76 station on El Cajon Boulevard and 70th Street, a gallon of regular was selling for $4.79.

Barring another refinery fire, Gregg Lasoski of GasBuddy.com told 10News state drivers may continue to have their patience tested.

"The retailers that had bought fuel at the high level are not going to sell it at a low price. They're going to try to ease that price down a bit, but they still have to recover from the price of most recent deliveries that they've accepted," said Lasoski.

Hallak was forced to raise his prices by 20 cents a gallon later Monday afternoon.

Gov. Jerry Brown's order Sunday directing the California Air Resources Board to immediately allow oil refineries to make an early transition to winter-blend gasoline, which isn't typically sold until Nov. 1, and the resumption of operations at ExxonMobil's Torrance refinery are expected to add to the supply of gasoline.

The record prices are the result of whole markets going "into a panic about the adequacy of California fuel supplies" following a power failure at the Torrance refinery and closure of a Chevron pipeline that moves crude oil to Northern California, said Jeffrey Spring of the Automobile Club of Southern California.

Prior to the incidents last Monday, local refiners dropped production levels, exported supply to Mexico and other countries and allowed inventory to dwindle in anticipation of switching over to production of winter blend gasoline, Spring said.

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