Local gas price bounces back up near $4 a gallon

Published: Saturday, May. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B

Hang on, gas prices are heading up to $4 a gallon once again.

The average retail price of gasoline in California on Friday was $3.99 a gallon, according to national price tracker GasBuddy.com. AAA put Friday's statewide average price for unleaded regular at $3.98.6.

In both cases, that was up about a dime from just one week ago.

GasBuddy, which surveys 720 stations in the Sacramento area, said the average price of gas locally on Friday was $3.90, up 11 cents from last week.

The reason: supply, or rather, lack of supply.

"A lot of the latest increase in California has to do with last week's report by the (California Energy Commission) showing inventory lingering near record lows for this time of year," said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. "Since then, the CEC has put out a new report showing a little more optimism, but supplies are definitely tight."

DeHaan said some West Coast refineries have been doing maintenance work, resulting in lower output of gasoline.

He said he expects the statewide average price of gas to surge above the $4 threshold over this weekend "and it's likely to stay up there for at least a couple of weeks" as the Memorial Day holiday weekend approaches.

For perspective, the average price of gas in Sacramento rose about a nickel to $4.10 a gallon in the first week of May last year. At that time, the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed stocks of motor gasoline and gas-blending components – a key measure of ready-to-deliver gasoline – in the Western region at a year-low 28.2 million barrels.

The EIA's most recent report, on May 3, showed the current supply at 26.2 million barrels, down from 28.7 million at the end of March.

On the positive side, things could be worse. There are other factors helping put the brakes on rising gas costs.

On Friday, the price of crude oil declined 35 cents to close at $96.04 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was trading as low as $93.37 in the morning as energy analysts cited increased production by OPEC and the U.S. dollar rising against the euro and other international currencies.

Since crude is priced in dollars, a weakening dollar makes crude more attractive to investors who buy it with pricier currencies. A stronger dollar makes that investment more expensive.

The national average price of gas has risen over the past week but at a slower pace. GasBuddy put the U.S. average retail price of gas at $3.56 a gallon on Friday, up 5 cents from a week ago.

Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

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