Las Vegas gasoline prices drop 2 cents per gallon

As gasoline prices in California climbed to an all-time high for a third straight day Monday, the average price of regular in Southern Nevada inched down 2 cents from a weekend peak of $3.78 per gallon.

The average price in Las Vegas, as listed by GasBuddy.com, was $3.76 per gallon, a modest decrease from its sudden jump of 9 cents over the previous five days. The average price in Nevada spiked by 10 cents to $3.88, before dropping a cent on Monday.

A spokeswoman for the Las Vegas convention authority downplayed any immediate effect on Las Vegas tourism.

"It’s really too early to tell what impact – if any – the current rise in gas prices may have on travel," said Hetty Chang, spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "In past experiences, we’ve learned people tend to plan and save for vacation – and are likely to change their day-to-day driving habits (like going to the drycleaner or store) rather than canceling travel plans."

The national average for a gallon of regular is $3.80.

Nevada stations are feeling the ripple effect of a power outage at a Southern California refinery that reduced supply in an already fragile and volatile market. The refinery came back online Friday.

In some California locations, fuming motorists paid $5 or more per gallon while station owners had to shut down pumps in others.

A station in Long Beach south of Los Angeles had California’s priciest gasoline at $6.65 for a gallon of regular, according to GasBuddy.com. Meanwhile, customers at an outlet in San Pablo north of Oakland paid just $3.49, the lowest.

The average price in California hit $4.67, according to AAA. Prices were expected to stabilize in the coming days. Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, predicted the average price could peak as high as $4.85 before coming back down.

The statewide rise prompted calls for a federal investigation into the price spike.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, saying residents need to be protected from "malicious trading schemes."

Feinstein in her letter Sunday asked the FTC to determine whether the price spike was caused by illegal manipulation of the market and to start monitoring the market for fraud, manipulation, or other malicious trading practices.

"Publicly available data appears to confirm that market fundamentals are not to blame for rising gas prices in California," she wrote.

Despite a pipeline and refinery shutdown, she said, state data shows gasoline production last week was "almost as high as a year ago, and stockpiles of gasoline and blending components combined were equal to this time last year," she said.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday ordered state smog regulators to allow winter-blend gasoline to be sold in California earlier than usual to bring down prices.

Winter-blend gas typically isn’t sold until after Oct. 31. Few refineries outside the state are now making summer-blend gasoline, pressuring already-taxed California manufacturers.

Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Laura Carroll and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Joe Hawk at jhawk@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2912. Follow him on Twitter: @RJroadwarrior.

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