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Gas Prices in U.S. Rise Amid West Coast Refinery Shutdowns

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“This shouldn’t be the Biden administration’s fault, but they know that if gas prices are back at $4.50 on Election Day, they’re in trouble,” said Tom Kloza, a founding father of Oil Price Information Service, a price reporting agency, referring to the upcoming midterm elections.

Other than the political consequences, a sustained rise in gas prices could also affect how businesses and consumers view the economy. In July, falling gas prices were a key a part of the better-than-expected reading of the Consumer Price Index, offering a temporary glimmer of hope to those searching for signs that inflation has peaked.

Among the many West Coast refineries which have shut down is one in Washington State run by Phillips 66 and two near San Francisco which are run by Valero and Chevron. Chevron and Phillips 66 said they don’t comment on the day-to-day operations of their refineries. BP and Valero didn’t immediately reply to questions on the refineries.

Analysts said the refineries don’t typically release much detail about closings or and after they expect to reopen. .

But not every shutdown is predictable. A fireplace at a BP-owned refinery near Toledo, Ohio, shuttered that facility in September. It might not reopen until early 2023, Bloomberg News reported late last month, citing unnamed sources. In Ohio, the common price of gas rose to $3.939 a gallon on Friday from $3.609 a month earlier.

Prices in California and other states have fallen barely since Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week the state could start producing its winter mix of gasoline early, which is cheaper for refiners to supply because it incorporates fewer of the additives that protect against environmental conditions in the summertime. The introduction of the winter mix, paired with the potential for slowed demand in fall and winter driving seasons, could help bring prices back down, said Devin Gladden, a spokesman for AAA.

On Wednesday, the group generally known as OPEC Plus, which incorporates Saudi Arabia and Russia, announced that it could slash oil production by two million barrels a day, a call that drew an instantaneous condemnation from the Biden administration. On Thursday, Mr. Biden told reporters he was “disenchanted” by OPEC’s decision and looking out into “alternatives.” The White House also said it could release more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the country’s stockpile of crude oil.

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