Gas prices drop on North Coast

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."

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