San Diego County gas prices drop after sharp increases

Average in SD County $1 more than national average

SAN DIEGO - A six-day streak of increases that pushed the average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline in San Diego County to a record high ended today with a decrease of three-tenths of a cent to $4.722.

The average price rose 54.7 cents during the streak, including 1.3 cents on Monday, according to figures from the AAA and Oil Price Information Service.

The average price is 54.4 cents more than one week ago, 56.4 cents higher than one month ago and 92.1 cents greater than one year ago.

State gas prices, which went up a cent overnight to $4.67 per gallon, are a new record high for California. It's also the highest price in the nation.

A sharp decrease of the wholesale gasoline price on Monday makes it seem "hopeful we will get some big drops soon, if not in the next few days, certainly in the coming weeks," Marie Montgomery Nordhues of the Automobile Club of Southern California told City News Service.

Nordhues credited the sharp decrease of the wholesale gasoline price to Gov. Jerry Brown's Sunday directive to 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.

"That announcement seemed to immediately resolve the supply concerns that had caused the panic on the spot market last week," Nordhues said.

Stagnating gas prices have led to calls from Democratic state Sen. Juan Vargas for an investigation into price gauging.

"We ought to do something about it, and we ought to be pissed off," said Vargas. "People aren't pissed off and they ought to be pissed off."

Vargas said he wants the attorney general to investigate the sudden spike in prices.

"They went up astronomically, but they haven't come down the same way," said Vargas.

He's going even further, accusing oil companies of price gauging and illegal activity, even though he admits he's taken political donations from oil companies.

"What they ought to do at the federal level and at the state level is arrest somebody," he said. "Throw [oil company executives] in jail for collusion. Put a couple [of them] in jail, some of these big shots, and I bet you these prices will come down to $2.11."

Although Vargas can't initiate an investigation on his own, he does have a say over the state tax on gas. The tariff helps to make California gas the most expensive in the nation. 10News asked Vargas if he would support lower of getting rid of the tax.

"If we lowered the tax, the prices would come down by a few cents," he said.

Some drivers in the North County aren't waiting for politicians to take action.

Diane Stewart traded in her car for a scooter and a bus pass.

"We gave up one car," said Stewart. "There were two cars, now there's just one, and so I ride my scooter around."

Like others in North County, she's giving the Breeze -- the bus service in North County -- a try. The North County Transit District told 10News the number of people riding the bus last week went up 10.5 percent compared to same week last year.

"I still want to go where I'm going," said Stewart. "I refuse to just keep paying the prices in gas that I'm paying."

High gas prices haven't forced an increase in either the Coaster or Sprinter ridership in North County.

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