That pain motorists have been feeling at gas pumps in recent weeks is real, and AAA on Tuesday released the hard numbers as evidence.
In its monthly California gas price survey, AAA said the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded statewide is $3.91, up 26 cents from the Feb. 11 survey. In Northern California, the average of $3.84 is likewise 26 cents higher than February’s average.
Sacramento came in at $3.76 a gallon, up a whopping 32 cents from last month. That wasn’t as bad as the San Francisco area, where the average was $3.96, or Los Angeles, where it’s $3.98.
Nationally, the current average is $3.49 per gallon, the highest price in nearly six months. Prices have risen for 31 consecutive days.
The past month’s rise reflects the high price of crude oil – now exceeding $100 a barrel – coupled with seasonal refinery maintenance and the cost of the annual switch to summer-blend fuel, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for national gas price tracker GasBuddy.com, which surveys 720 gas outlets in the Sacramento area daily.
And things are likely to get worse before they get better.
“While retail gas prices are climbing, oil analysts predict higher prices over the next month” due to refinery maintenance and the summer-blend shift,” said Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokeswoman. “These factors, coupled with unexpected market-moving events such as unplanned domestic refinery maintenance or further escalation of geopolitical tensions with Russia, could cause prices to shoot up even higher.”
DeHaan agreed, saying “that light at the end of the tunnel remains several weeks away.”
He added: “As refinery maintenance season is now in its prime, and will be for several weeks, motorists could see additional volatility at the pump should issues or unexpected problems arise with this period of maintenance. There tend to be glitches and issues restarting these plants, and the progressive switchover to various blends of (pricier spring-summer) gasoline complicates matters further. Then, as refineries get back online, the volatility will ebb and prices will slow their climb.”
Even so, things are not as bad as they were at this time last year. AAA said statewide gas prices today are currently 26 cents per gallon cheaper, on average, than they were one year ago. GasBuddy said the average retail price of gas in the Sacramento area is nearly 30 cents cheaper than it was at this time in 2013.
Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.