Gas prices have slowed their climb, but motorists are still paying heavily at the pump, here in the Sacramento area and nationwide. And prices could go even higher by Labor Day weekend.
The average price of gas in the area rose 3.3 cents over the past week to $4.05 a gallon, according to Monday's weekly report by SactoGasPrices.com, a GasBuddy.com website.
That was a comparative walk in the park after the previous week's 25.8-cents-a-gallon spike following an Aug. 6 fire that damaged the Chevron refinery in Richmond, a critical link in the state's gas supply chain.
Still, area prices are 41.2 cents higher than they were a month ago and 41.5 cents above what they were at this time last year.
Nationally, the average price increased 2.1 cents over the past week to $3.70 a gallon. That's 21.9 cents higher than last month and 11.8 cents higher than last year.
On Monday, AAA put the national average at $3.72, the highest price ever for the date. Energy experts are predicting $3.75 a gallon by the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Meanwhile, Chevron, environmentalists and federal and state agencies have been sniping about the repair schedule in the wake of the Aug. 6 fire in Richmond. The refinery has a capacity of 245,000 barrels a day, but no date has been projected for it to resume full production.
Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, said Monday that the short-term effects of the Richmond refinery fire appear to have passed.
"There was a big reaction in the wholesale (gas) market after the fire, but wholesale prices have taken a bit of a breather since then," he said. "They've come off their highs.
"It's not completely over, but the fire news has been digested, understood and scoped out. There was an overreaction, and now things are coming back down to Earth."
DeHaan also noted that the summer "driving season is just about over, so there's downward pressure on wholesale prices."
The average price of gas nationwide hit an all-time high of $4.11 a gallon in July 2008, according to AAA.
In California, AAA said the average price of unleaded regular gas on Monday was $4.11 a gallon.
The state's all-time average high for unleaded regular was $4.61 a gallon on June 19, 2008.