Gas prices higher than a year ago
Last year at this time motorists were complaining about the rising price of gas. It’s deja vu all over.
Gas prices now top $4 on average throughout Porterville, with some stations charging more than $4.25 a gallon.
The increase has come quickly. The Automobile Club of Southern California reports that in the past month gas prices have risen more than ever, by at least 57 cents at most locations throughout the state.
In Tulare County, the average price for regular unleaded was $4.07 a gallon on Thursday. That was up more than 3 cents from Wednesday and up 10 cents in the past week.
However, compared to a month ago, the price is up a whopping 52 cents a gallon. Compared to last year at this time, the price is 7 cents a gallon higher and still rising.
Gas prices seemed to bottom out in the most recent drop at about $3.30 a gallon. That is what motorists paid around the first of the year.
“Almost two weeks ago it was just $3.80 a gallon,” said Sunshine Market clerk Marcos Alvarez. He said a lot of customers complain, but they understand it is not the store’s fault. He said gas sales have been about the same, but some people are purchasing less gas at a time.
The state average is $4.203 a gallon for regular — 11.6 cents higher than last week, according to the auto club.
“Prices have now gone up even more than they did during the spike in October and the one last February, and more quickly than they did during any one-month stretch in 2008, when we had another big spike,” said Auto Club spokesperson Jeffrey Spring. “Los Angeles drivers are now paying nearly as much as drivers on Maui for regular unleaded, which is unprecedented.”
“It’s costing us an average of $20 a day to run the truck,” said Ted Johnson, a self-employed appliance repairman. He said they have not yet raised their rates to cover the cost. “We’re staying optimistic prices will come back down,” he sad as he filled his tank at the Valero station at Orange and Main.
He said he drives about 100 miles a day and purchases gas “at the cheapest I can find.”
Prices in the Orange Belt Thursday varied from $3.77 a gallon at the Fast Trip station in Lindsay to 4.19 a gallon on West Olive. Most stations in the Orange Belt are $3.99 a gallon or higher.
Gas is a little less expensive in Tulare where prices as low as $3.79 can be found and most stations are below $3.90 a gallon. In the Porterville area, the cheapest gas is at the Lake Express station at $3.95 a gallon.
Wednesday’s hike marks 27 consecutive days of gas price increases that began on Jan. 25, according to the auto club.
The only the bright spot: The increases appear to be slowing. “It’s sort of mellowed out,” Spring said Thursday, noting it is going up a penny a day, rather than several pennies a day.
Analysts say gas prices typically increase during this time of the year, when refineries shut down temporarily to switch to a cleaner summer fuel blend. But this year, Spring said, “refineries did more maintenance than usual, and started earlier than usual.”
The refineries are now finishing up their maintenance cycles and getting back to full production, he said.
However, Spring agreed, the declines usually do not fall as low as the highs rise. “If you look over the last four or five years, it goes up, then back down, but not quite as far, then it goes up,” he said.
Besides the high price of fuel, California drivers pay 67.1 cents per gallon in taxes. That’s higher than all states except New York, and 18.3 cents higher than the national average, according to the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association in Washington D.C.
Gas station owners and analysts also say that prices are higher in California because state regulations requires a special formula of gas that is made by fewer refineries and costs more to produce.
There could be some good news. The price of crude oil dropped below $93 a barrel on Thursday, down more than $5 in the past week.
Californians use approximately 33 million gallons of gas a day, and consumption is down from years when gas was less expensive.