Los Angeles, CA -- The nonprofit group Consumer Watchdog today warned Southern California drivers that they would be facing sticker shock at their gasoline pumps beginning this weekend as the state’s biggest oil refiners raised wholesale prices charged to station owners by 37 cents.

The price hike accompanies the transition to summer blends of gasoline, which are being delivered by oil refiners to branded gasoline stations beginning today.  Street prices will begin rising as of today.

“Drivers in Southern California should fill up now because gasoline prices are going up quickly and not coming back down for a while,” said Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court. “Oil refiners made billions extra last year because of our pain at the pump and after a short respite the pain is going to continue. What’s remarkable is that the four major oil refiners all raised the prices to their branded stations, 75% of the Southern California market, in unison and by nearly the same amount. When four refiners control nearly 80% of the gasoline production and 75% of the stations in the area this market is rigged for refiners’ profit and drivers’ pain.”

Consumer Watchdog said that deals could still be had at Costco and unbranded independent stations for the next few days, but that prices at branded stations would have to change with deliveries of gasoline beginning today.  If oil refiners raise prices by 37 cents, those costs have to be passed on to drivers or station owners will be under water, Consumer Watchdog said.

The gasoline market that the major refiners trade large amounts of gasoline on, known as the spot market, jumped 50 cents on February 24th, from 68 cents per gallon to $1.18 per gallon.

As of today, California gasoline prices are still 68 cents higher than the U.S. average. The coming price spike will grow that gap and continue to fuel record profits for oil refiners in the state, said Consumer Watchdog.

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For more on California gas gouging, go to: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/OilProfitReportQ32015.pdf