Relief from high gas prices did not arrive in California on Tuesday, but it might be close at hand.
Prices hit an all-time high for the fourth day in a row on Tuesday. AAA put the statewide average price of unleaded regular at $4.671 a gallon, up from Monday's record of $4.668.
However, national gas price tracker GasBuddy.com had the average price of a gallon of gas in California at $4.65, down a penny from Monday. GasBuddy also said the statewide trend is for falling prices.
Golden State motorists also found some encouragement in energy experts saying that numerous factors -- including a drop of 50 to 60 cents in California wholesale gas markets -- have set the table for an imminent decline in at-the-pump costs. That could happen as soon as today.
"It's hard to predict exactly, but conditions are right for lower prices in California by the end of the week," said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.
AAA also expects prices to fall, "barring additional regional issues."
Unlike California, Sacramento has not surpassed its all-time high for unleaded regular. AAA said Tuesday's average price in the area was $4.55 a gallon, short of the record of $4.57 set on June 17, 2008.
AAA released its monthly gas price survey Tuesday, and it showed the average price of unleaded regular in Sacramento spiking 43 cents per gallon since the Sept. 11 survey.
Northern California saw a 45-cent surge. Statewide, the increase was 50 cents.
The record-setting blitz has rippled throughout the state.
California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have called on federal authorities to investigate the validity of the price hikes.
Some Southern California gas stations are posting prices of more than $5 a gallon for regular. Costco, meanwhile, was forced to close pumps at California stores because it ran out of gas.
Farmers in the Central Valley said they have cut back on use of heavy equipment.
Economists in the region said Tuesday that they did not anticipate food costs to be significantly affected by the gas price surge, especially if costs recede in coming days.
Numerous Californians have said they changed travel plans and fill-up habits because of the high prices.
Energy analysts blame the weeklong price surge on a perfect storm of supply disruptions at refineries throughout California last week.
The unprecedented spike in gas prices prompted Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday to direct the California Air Resources Board to allow refineries to switch early to making cheaper winter-grade fuel. The switchover had been scheduled to occur Nov. 1.
ARB has issued its advisory clearing the way for production and delivery of winter-blend gas, but officials warned that it will take at least a few days for refineries to ramp up production.
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