COSTA MESA (CBSLA.com) — Gas prices in the Southland are among the highest in the nation and, according to one expert, are predicted to climb as the economy continues to grow.

As KCAL9’s Stacey Butler reports, at some Orange County gas stations, fuel prices jumped in just one week.

“I noticed across the street, it’s up 20 cents there. Mobil is only two cents more down the street,” said Paul Peterson, a driver.

Just two months ago at the same gas station, prices dipped to $2.69 per gallon.

Raymond Sfeir, a Chapman University economics professor, says in California, there are four reasons for why gas prices are on the rise.

They include: 10 percent higher crude prices; the explosion at the ExxonMobil Corp. refinery in Torrance; a more expensive summer blend of gasoline; and California’s cap-and-trade program.

That program was launched three years ago to reduce emissions and hasn’t affected wholesalers until this year.

“At the beginning of the program in 2012, the wholesalers of gasoline were not included in the program, but now starting Jan. 1, 2015, they are included. And because of the carbon that’s emitted by gasoline, they have to buy permits in order to offset that carbon emissions,” Sfeir said.

Mick Pattinson, another driver, blames the high prices on a reliance on OPEC.

“Instead of becoming energy independent as we could do if we supported things like Keystone and all the drilling here in America onshore and offshore,” Pattinson said.

Sfeir predicts that gas prices will keep on climbing as the economy continues to grow.

To find lower gas prices in your area, click here.

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