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
      Let them pay higher prices. Heaven forbid one drills offshore from California.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Thank you Mr. Obama. It was nice of you to not allow the pipeline to be built or any domestic drilling. We voters really appreciate all you have done to boost gas prices. We will let you know just how much we appreciate it in about a month,
      • 2 Years Ago
      "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." We won't have to worry about our economy heating up if obama is reelected.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hey, California! When are you going to decide you're had enough of liberal rule? p.s. Same goes for New York.
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Under my administration, energy prices will NECESSARILY SKYROCKET.".... a quote from the man himself.
      • 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 ...
      • 2 Years Ago
      It appears I left California just in time. The price was $3.69 for regular just 3 months ago
      • 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
      Oil companys are just big crooks they figure out away to jack up gasoline prices anyway they can; state there is a shortage or a refinerey fire.It seems like there is is a refinery fire at least once a year. I think these oil companys have someone start these fires just to jack up gasoline prices.The oil companys should be investigated and fined billions of dollar for stealing from the pubic. OPEC the biggest crook of all.;
      Hi RON
      • 2 Years Ago
      The FOOLS who keep voting for Pres. Obama are not smart enough to figure out HE is one MAJOR cause of high gas prices !! He nixed the pipeline ------ curtailed drilling -- and outright stopped drilling in federal locations --- spent over 60 BILLION tax dollars for failed green energy companies to squander --(some went to his campaign from their CEO's before bankruptcy) .... It SO OBVIOUS as to what is going on ---- and so many sit idily by supporting the guy who is the big push in their spending 100 bucks to fill up their gas tanks. When are people going to wake up ???
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is ridiculous! how are we supposed to ever get ahead in this country if they keep raising the gas prises!!! if we are ever going to get out of this economic hole that we're in and get people out and about, then it starts at the pump! when is this country ever gonna wake up, I mean they use just about anything as an excuse to raise the prices of gas anymore.
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