$3 and up at pump in ’07?

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: John Jackson greets a Christmas that he wasn’t sure he’d see160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Enjoy gas prices under $3 while you can because come February, drivers can expect to take a hammering at the pump, analysts predict. “Gas is going to go north of $3 on the West Coast quite commonly in 2007,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service. Prices should fall in January when demand hits rock bottom, then start climbing around Valentine’s Day. The outlook for 2007 is more harsh than in the past partly because demand continues to rise while refineries that serve California have not increased their output, Kloza said. He conservatively estimated gas prices would settle in the $3 to $3.40 range. Prices increased in recent weeks because refineries have lowered their output while performing maintenance. California requires a special fuel because of clean-air laws, and a limited number of refineries make it. It’s also a more expensive refining process. “In California we don’t have a lot of backup sources for refined gasoline,” said Elaine Beno, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. It was unclear whether a surge in travelers around the holidays contributed to rising gas prices over the past three weeks. Thursday’s average price for a gallon of regular in Los Angeles and Long Beach was $2.63, Beno said. A barrel of crude oil sold for $60 Thursday, according to the Web site gaspricewatch.com, which lets individuals list gas prices they see and search for other reported prices. The nation’s highest gas prices are usually found in Hawaii, but Thursday morning, Desert Center near Joshua Tree National Park claimed the honor of the highest price. A gallon of regular unleaded sold for $3.39 there, according to gaspricewatch.com. Soon, that price could become commonplace. And consumers should be prepared to hear predictions as high as $4 a gallon, Kloza warned. “But they tend to come from people who like to see their names quoted in newspapers,” Kloza said. Charles Smith groaned when he heard gas prices would rise sharply in the new year. “Fantastic, I can’t wait for that,” said Smith, 42, of West Hills as he fueled up his Dodge Ram at the 76 station on Fallbrook Avenue and Oxnard Street, where regular unleaded went for $2.59 a gallon. “Two years ago they were grooming us for $2 a gallon.” Smith uses a big 345-horsepower truck because as a carpenter he needs to lug around heavy materials, and he often tows his boat. The Ram gets 14 to 18 miles per gallon, he said. Gas prices have already pushed Pat Hank to cut back her driving. Instead of motoring from her home in Calabasas to the East Valley three times a week for errands, she makes a big trip once a week and shaves $100 off her weekly gas tab. “Since this whole thing started, I combine trips,” said Hank, 60, as she pumped gas into her Jeep Grand Cherokee. Jerry Ellner doesn’t drive much because he is retired, but pump prices have made the 70-year-old from Calabasas think about scrapping his Lexus ES300. The sedan gets 18 mpg, which Ellner does not consider good mileage. “One of the things I might consider,” he said, “is a hybrid.” — Julia Scott, (818) 713-3735 [email protected]last_img