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The Boston Globe

Business

Calif. gas prices rising, governor acts on supply

Early switch to winter blend apt to ease pressure

LOS ANGELES — With gasoline prices reaching record highs across California over the last week, Governor Jerry Brown moved Sunday to alleviate some of the pain.

He directed the California Air Resources Board to take emergency steps to increase the supply of fuel and allow refineries to immediately switch to a winter blend of gasoline typically not sold until November.

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“Gas prices in California have risen to their highest levels ever, with unacceptable cost impacts on consumers and small businesses,’’ Brown, a Democrat, said in a prepared statement.

The sudden increase has surprised motorists who are already accustomed to high prices, particularly in this sprawling city. The cost of gas jumped 20 cents per gallon on Thursday night. Prices have continued to climb since then, although more slowly, reaching a statewide average of $4.66 on Sunday, according to the AAA’s daily fuel gauge report.

Some motorists had begun to direct their frustration at Brown.

“Consumers in California are getting killed,’’ Judith Connolly, the owner of a media company, said as she filled up with premium gasoline on Friday. ‘‘We’re being penalized, and the rest of the country is paying far less. This is something that Jerry Brown really needs to deal with.’’

Problems at several refineries in the state have been blamed. Two months ago, a fire knocked out a 245,000-barrel-a-day refinery in the Bay Area that has not resumed full production. And last week, a power failure curtailed production at a refinery in Torrance. Full production resumed there Friday.

Brown said he hoped the switch to the winter-blend gasoline, which evaporates more quickly than gasoline sold during the summer smog season, would stop the climb in prices because it could increase fuel supplies in the state by up to 10 percent. Summer-blend gasoline is better for air quality.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, said a combination of factors, including regulations and geography, makes gas supplies in California volatile. He said the unusually high prices were likely to level off in ‘‘days or weeks’’ and would not spread. “It is very specific to California,’’ he said.

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