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Gasoline prices are continuing to rise throughout Southern California.
Last month Southland motorists were worried about prices nearing $4 a gallon, but the region has blown past that mark and pump prices are still ramping up.
On Friday the average price for a gallon of regular gas in the Los Angeles-Long Beach region was $4.29 a gallon, up 12 cents from a week ago and up 55 cents from a month earlier, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report.
The area hit an all-time high on Oct. 9 when the average price of regular reached $4.71 a gallon. But some Southland stations are now posting even higher prices.
"I think it's a monopoly," said Pietro Avolio, who owns an Italian restaurant in West Covina. "I think the oil companies have decided what the prices are going to be ... and they just do it."
When prices are lower, Avolio said he can fill up his Toyota Sienna van for about $50. But these days a fillup is costing him $70.
"I just try to be more economical," he said. "This car's cheaper to drive than my other one so I'm driving this one."
On Monday, a Union 76 station in El Monte was selling regular for $4.89 a gallon.
The highest price was found at a Chevron station on north Alameda Street in Los Los Angeles, which was selling regular for $5.19 a gallon. Another Shell station in Los Angeles advertised regular for $5.09 a gallon.
On the flipside, a Sam's Club in Glendora and an Alliance station in Sierra Madre both had the lowest price around - $4.05 a gallon.
Inland Empire gas prices have experienced similar gains. The average price for a gallon of regular in the two-county region was $4.24 on Monday, up 11 cents for the week and up 55 cents from a month earlier.
So what's pushing prices upward?
"It's all the usual things, but it's nothing like what happened in October," said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. "Wholesale prices have gone up to nearly $3.45. That's about 10 cents more than a couple of days ago."
Montgomery said BP is flaring off excess gas at its Carson refinery and other California refineries are also in the middle of their switch from winter to summer blends.
That typically causes some level of disruption at the facilities, she said.
"Refineries are still in their turnaround and a lot of units are down," she said. "We're not at 100 percent capacity as far as production. I know that Valero is having some issues at their Wilmington refinery, but none of these things seem catastrophic in terms of what we'd normally see this time of year."
California's gasoline inventory for in-state use topped out at more than 6.9 million barrels for the week ended Feb. 8. That was up 1.9 percent from the previous week and up 12 percent from a year ago, according to the California Energy Commission.
But production was down.
Statewide production of gas topped 5.9 million barrels, but that was down 0.4 percent from the previous week and down the same amount from a year earlier.
Luis C., a supervisor with Black Car Executive Sedan Service in Sun Valley, said his company is feeling the pinch of higher prices.
"We have owner/operators who are complaining," he said. "They own their own vehicles, so they pay for their own gas and for wear and tear on their cars. They pay us to lease our name and for us to give them business."
Black Car has a fleet of more than 200 towncars, limousines, stretch limos, taxis, vans, shuttles and super shuttles operating in the San Fernando Valley.