With summer looming, local motorists are finally catching a break at the gasoline pump as prices recede from last month's sudden spike.
Production at California refineries picked up, helping push the cost of a gallon of regular gas down to $4.16 on Friday in Santa Rosa, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
That's nine cents lower than a week ago, and 17 cents less than the $4.33 mark hit on May 14.
Prices "came down rather quickly," said Alison Roberts, spokeswoman for the California Energy Commission.
The state's 12 gasoline-producing refineries "appear to be back at healthy levels of production," she said, rebounding from cutbacks due to maintenance last month.
In addition, a major BP refinery in Washington that was closed by fire in February went back online at the end of May.
Another promising factor for consumers is the continued decline in the crude oil price, which closed Friday at $84.10 per barrel, near the lowest level since last October.
The oil price peaked at $109.77 in February.
Experts cited increased oil production in the United States, Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia — combined with slowed economic growth in the U.S. and China — as the reasons for cheaper oil.
Julian Jessop, chief global economist at Capital Economics, predicted that oil prices will end the year "much lower than they are now."
In Santa Rosa, gasoline on Friday was just 13 cents higher than it was a year ago.
But Californians continue to pay a premium for living on the West Coast, which experts call an "energy island," producing most of its own gasoline.
Prices in Santa Rosa and around the state remained 60 cents higher than the national average, just as they were in May.
Californians typically pay 20 to 40 cents more than the national average.
On Friday, California's average price for a gallon of regular was $4.16, a dollar more than in South Carolina and higher than anywhere else but Hawaii ($4.50), Alaska ($4.46), Washington ($4.21) and Oregon ($4.17).
The national average was $3.56 on Friday.
Know Your Rights
California law prohibits lawyers or others acting on behalf of a lawyer from:
— Soliciting clients at an accident scene, at a hospital, or on the way to a hospital.
— Soliciting clients who, due to their physical, emotional or mental state, may not be able to have reasonable judgment about the hiring of an attorney .
— Seeking clients by mail unless the letter and envelope are clearly labeled as an advertisement.
— Promising a particular outcome from legal representation.
In the wake of the fires, there is also the risk of victims being approached by people posing as attorneys. Consumers should determine if they are legitimate and licensed to provide legal services. Before hiring an attorney, look up their name or State Bar number on the State Bar website — www.calbar.ca.gov — to check the status of their license to practice law and whether they have any record of discipline.
Source: State Bar of California