Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday took "emergency steps" Sunday to try to bring down the state's record gasoline prices.
He directed the state Air Resources Board to increase the fuel supply by allowing the immediate sale and import of cheaper and more available winter-blend gas.
The move would cut the price of gas in California by 15 to 20 cents a gallon, probably within a few days, said energy expert Chris Faulkner of Dallas-based Breitling Oil and Gas.
"This would immediately increase the supply of gasoline in California," Faulkner said, but he cautioned it would take a few days for Brown's move to be reflected at the pump.
"Gas goes up quickly and comes down slowly," Faulkner said.
Brown's office said the switch to winter blend could increase the state's gas supply by 8 to 10 percent.
Winter-blend gas is a mixture that evaporates more quickly than gas sold in summer months. It's considered more detrimental to air quality during warm weather.
Winter-blend gasoline typically isn't sold until after Oct. 31. Last week, the California Independent Oil Marketers Association asked the state Energy Commission for permission to switch over to winter blend.
"Gas prices in California have risen to their highest levels ever, with unacceptable cost impacts on consumers and small businesses," Brown said in a statement.
"I am directing the Air Resources Board to immediately take whatever steps are necessary to allow an early transition to winter-blend gasoline."
He said allowing the switch "could quickly increase fuel supply and provide a much needed safety value with negligible air quality impacts."
AAA reported Sunday for the second straight day that gas prices hit a record average of $4.655 for a gallon of regular in California, up about four cents from Saturday's report.
California's price is the highest in the nation. Even usual price-leader Hawaii is less at $4.411. The national average is at $3.814.
Before the sudden surge, California's record was $4.6096 on June 19, 2008.
Analysts have attributed the spike in prices to refinery and pipeline problems that cut supply in a state that already pays a premium for cleaner-burning fuel.
"This is the worst it's ever been for sure," said Marie Montgomery, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. "This is pretty unprecedented. It's terrible."
Chief among the immediate problems was a Monday power failure at Exxon Mobil Corp.'s refinery in Torrance. The refinery went back on line Friday, the company said.
Chevron Corp.'s refinery in Richmond has been running at reduced capacity after an Aug. 6 fire, and an oil pipeline from Kern County to the Bay Area was closed because of contamination.
A station in Long Beach had California's priciest gas at $6.65 for regular, according to gasbuddy.com.