Winter gas comes early to fight increasing costs at California pumps

Kent Porter/APGov. Jerry Brown allowed the advance sale of 'winter blend' gasoline to relieve high costs in California averaging $4.61 per gallen.

State air pollution regulators said Monday that California’s air quality is not expected to worsen appreciably after the governor ordered the release of a dirtier blend of gasoline to help slash record-high pump prices.

The California Air Resources Board issued a regulatory advisory a day earlier after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered them to allow so-called “winter-blend” gasoline to be sold in California earlier than usual to increase supply.

AAA said the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in California hit $4.668 on Monday — the highest price in the nation and an all-time high for the Golden State. Analysts said the spike has been driven by refinery disruptions and corrosion issues in an important pipeline.

“This action is necessary to address the extreme and unusual fuel supply circumstance,” said the board’s advisory allowing the use of the more polluting fuel. “[It] is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety or general welfare.”

California usually converts to the gas Oct. 31. The fuel evaporates in heat more quickly than summer-blends, so sends more pollutants into the environment, especially in warm weather.

Gil Duran, a spokesman for Brown, said the governor looked at all the options available, particularly scientists’ prediction that such a change would not have a significant effect on the environment and “when he learned this could increase the supply by 8 to 10 percent, it just made sense.”

Officials said it could take days before prices fall, depending on how quickly refineries can get the winter-blend fuel to market.

“The gasoline market moves on news, and this is clearly good news in terms of supply, because it should be able to increase supply immediately,” said Alison apRoberts, a spokeswoman with the California Energy Commission.

The third day of record-setting prices at the pump has also prompted calls for a federal investigation.

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