California gas prices creep upward

California is climbing to the top of a national list, but this one is not a particularly welcomed accomplishment. The Golden State officially boasts the second highest state average for gasoline prices.

In the last month alone, the average price for a gallon of gas in California jumped up almost a half dollar, from $3.61 to $4.06. The national average is $3.60.

This somewhat startling data (at least startling for your bank account) comes from the latest AAA monthly gas survey. The survey indicates various reasons for the sudden spike, including increasing crude oil prices, problems with refineries across the state, and California’s usual – and more expensive – conversion to summer-blend gasoline. This change requires the whole process be slowed down.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, told the Marin IJ:

“I’m not surprised at what I’m seeing, but I am surprised it’s coming early.”

According to the survey, gas prices today cost California motorists 22 cents more than the state’s average price on this date last year. But we haven’t yet reached California’s record high: $4.67 for regular unleaded gas, recorded by AAA on October 9, 2012.

Northern California is not immune to the price spikes either. With an average of $3.95, prices have gone up 39 cents from last month.

The sweet spot in the Bay Area to find the least expensive gas is Fremont (at $3.93 a gallon), according to the Marin IJ. Unsurprisingly, San Francisco clocks in at the Bay Area’s most expensive average: $4.05.

However, the future might not be totally grim. Crude oil production is expected to increase by 13 percent this year, to 7.25 million barrels a day. Production in countries outside of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is also expected to increase.

The federal government says that as a result, gas should peak at an average $3.73 per gallon in May. California drivers, keep your fingers crossed.