Much of the nation is paying $2 or less for a gallon of regular gasoline for the first time since spring 2009.
But in California, drivers are shelling out significantly more — and the price gap has gotten wider in recent weeks.
The Los Angeles area has been hit particularly hard.
L.A. motorists are paying an average price that is 75 cents a gallon more than the national average, compared with a 30-cent difference a year earlier. Fuel experts attribute the increased disparity largely to refinery outages.
"Certainly, no doubt about it, prices remain higher than normal, not just in Southern California but around the state," said Gordon Schremp, a senior fuels specialist at the California Energy Commission.
California gasoline typically costs more than in the rest of the country because of higher taxes and fees as well as a unique state-mandated blend that produces less pollution.
Some California service stations are selling gas for more than twice the national average price, which was $2.038 a gallon Tuesday, according to AAA's daily price survey. For instance, the Shell gas station at Olympic Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles had regular gas as high as $4.50 a gallon in recent days.
California's average price was $2.691 a gallon Tuesday. The average was $2.782 in Los Angeles, $2.74 in San Diego and $2.769 in San Francisco, AAA data show.
Fuel experts attribute the increased disparity between California and other states to lower fuel production because of unplanned outages or scheduled maintenance at several California refineries. Few refineries outside California make the state's clean-burning blend.
The biggest factor: Exxon Mobil Corp. reduced production at its Torrance refinery in February after an explosion destroyed a pollution control system. The facility accounts for 10% of the state's refining capacity and 20% of the capacity in Southern California.
The Exxon Mobil refinery is "still a factor," said Marie Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Schremp was optimistic that "good news is coming."
The gap between California prices and the national average, he said, should narrow over the next several weeks.
By the end of the year, refinery operations that have been idled for maintenance and repairs will begin to return to service. And in early February, Exxon Mobil's Torrance refinery, which is being sold to PBF Energy, is expected to come back on line.