In one California town, police have arrested a man who allegedy stole more than 1,100 gallons of gas from a nearby Shell station. In another city, several gas stations posted cardboard signs by their idle pumps. "Closed."

Similar portraits of desperation emerged across the state Monday as Californians grappled with sky-high gas prices, gas shortages and rations.

California Gov. Jerry Brown directed state agencies to speed their switch to a more-available winter blend of gas that wasn't due to take place until Oct. 31. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the spike in prices, which reached an average of $4.66 per gallon of regular, the highest in the country.

One gas station in Long Beach, Calif., advertised regular for $6.65 per gallon, according to, the priciest in the state. One analyst predicted average prices could rise as high as $4.85 per gallon in California before peaking.

So far, the problems that caused California's spike are isolated in the Golden State, where prices have increased 55 cents per gallon since averaging $4.11 on Sept. 28. By comparison, the national average has increased from $3.79 to $3.80 in the same span.

But the prices seen in California could spread nationally in the next couple of years through a few scenarios. When economies heat up an demand for gasoline goes up, so do prices. Oil prices have been hovering around $100 a barrel even though the U.S. economy is sluggish and Europe's is in the tank. Analysts warn that when the U.S. and Europe are recovering together at a higher rate of growth, combined with rising demand in China, oil and gasoline prices will climb in tandem.

Perfect Storm

In California, experts blame a collision of several factors for California's gas-price spike. ExxonMobil and Tesoro had shut down refineries for scheduled maintenance and Chevron had shut one down due to an August fire. A pipeline feeding the San Francisco market was also shut down because of suspected contamination.

"We're obviously extremely disheartened that we are unable to do this, and we're pulling fuel from all corners of California to fix this," Jeff Cole, Costco's vice president of gasoline told Bloomberg Businessweek, about the chain's shuttered pumps. This, "feels like a hurricane to me, but it's the West Coast."

The fact gas prices and energy policy in general have been hot-button political issues this election season has only sharpened the scrutiny on the behind-the-pump forces at play in California.

In a letter of chairman Jon Leibowitz, Feinstein wrote the FTC has "failed to take action to protect California consumers from malicious trading schemes in the California gasoline market."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      California is closed to tapping their off shore oil reserves. They are closed to building up to date refineries. Congrats on living in your green paradise. Those opposed need to get their voices together and reverse the last 50 years of leftist, and environmental pandering.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Once gasoline became a commidity the prices started to rise now that you had investor's in on it. We will never see low gas prices again because now investor's have to profit.
      • 2 Years Ago
      california is merely paying the price for its war on energy ... they cannot bring in gasoline from other sources because it does not comply with californias rules.. refineries will not modernize or build because of the onerous restrictions and costs... you pay for what you get,,, ther is no fre lunch
      • 2 Years Ago
      Where are all those reporters that we saw standing in front of gas pumps asking people to share how they were being hurt by gas prices when gas prices got to $4 during the Bush years! The only entity more corrupt than this hapless administration is the horrid national, in the tank, terminally biased media!
      • 2 Years Ago
      went to a SHELL station today. Saw the price of gas was cheaper than the stations on that road. I HATE SNEAKY, CONIVING SHELL! SURPRISE!!!!! Joke would have been on me - Noticed that the gas PRICE advertised on THEIR ginormous displays WASN'T THE PRICE SHOWING AT THE PUMP! 10 CENTS MORE when I selected which gas I wanted. That's one of their neat little TRICKS- competely hid the fact that you have to pay cash to get the advertised price - at least that's what I think they were trying to do, since I couldn't easily see the reference to paying cash - either that or completely rip me off. I didn't add gas, stopped the pump and drove off to another station 5 miles away.
      • 2 Years Ago
      You hid the share button behind the video!!! :(
      • 2 Years Ago
      Thanks to Obumas energy policies that's why This will be the whole country if he is re-elected
      Mark Lathom
      • 2 Years Ago
      Get used to it folks, once the prices go up they don't come back down.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Things measured, game of numbers and relationships! The things we do to them or don't. A day for aiming higher. When we obviously have had a lifetime to figure out where everything is, it is our will to know how to connect the greater good of all things left to us and responsibly transfer them to each other.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Well lets see, 1) Richmond Refinery, cause still to be determined,2) contaminated pipeline from down south, 3) 2 refineries down fo scheduled maitenance. At least did not leak several millions of barrels into the Bay or Pacific.
      • 2 Years Ago
      bend over
      • 2 Years Ago
      California got what Obama wanted ,,according to his Energy Secretary they want gas prices to go as high as Europe witch is eight dollars a gallon ,,you can't blame Bush for this one ...
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