After weeks of falling nationwide, it’s finally come to Sacramento: gas prices below $3 a gallon.
Partly due to global crude oil prices continuing to tumble, Sacramento consumers in some locations joined those across the country this weekend seeing a welcome sign at the gas pump.
Nationally, AAA reported Saturday that the average U.S. gas price dropped by 33 cents in October, reaching $2.99. That was the first time in four years that the AAA’s national average had dropped below $3.
In the Sacramento area, two Costco locations and one Sam’s Club in Sacramento were selling regular gas at the region’s lowest price, $2.85 per gallon, according to a website tracking local gas prices, www.sactogasprices.com. Elsewhere, a Safeway at Elk Grove Florin Road and Calvine Road was selling regular for $2.87 per gallon, and Arco stations and Fastrip stations in Citrus Heights, Woodland and Sacramento were selling a gallon of regular gas for $2.87 to $2.89.
“Oh, yes, people are happy with the gas price, and they like getting change back,” said Rita Singh, a clerk at Andy’s Arco on Main Street in Woodland, where a gallon of regular went for $2.87 on Sunday. “People like cheap gas. And we’re selling a lot more other stuff, like soft drinks, coffee, candy and doughnuts.”
Falling gas prices yielded an immediate dividend Sunday for Susan Curiel-Contreras, who racks up miles on her family’s four-door hatchback each week, transporting three kids to school and commuting to Sacramento Kings games with her husband.
“We’re season-ticket holders, so we make a lot of trips to see the Kings,” she said. “And with three kids, I have carpool round trips four or five times a day just to school. It does add up.”
Curiel-Contreras was buying $20 of gas early Sunday evening at an Arco station at 29th and J streets, where a gallon of unleaded was $2.93. In previous years, the Sacramento resident said she recalled paying close to $5 a gallon. “It just makes me wonder how long it is going to last,” she said Sunday. “But it’s a nice benefit for this time of year.”
The average gas price in California fell to $3.35 for a gallon of regular on Saturday, compared with $3.78 a year ago. According to AAA, the average price per gallon in Sacramento is $3.18 for regular, $3.30 for mid-grade, $3.39 for premium and $3.83 for diesel.
San Francisco maintained the highest gas prices in the state, with a gallon of regular going for an average of $3.47.
The cheaper gas prices are the result of plummeting crude oil prices internationally. The price of a barrel of oil from OPEC stood at $103.10 on Aug. 10. On Friday, the price of a barrel had dropped to $81.12.
Cynthia Harris, a spokeswoman for the AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah, said there are several factors for cheaper prices at the pump. She cited record U.S. oil production as well as changing consumer preferences. She said motorists – particularly in California – are driving more hybrids, electric cars and other fuel-efficient vehicles.
“There is an ample supply of oil nationwide,” she said. “And there are more vehicles on the road that are fuel efficient. We have seen a drop in consumption. And people have managed to navigate gas prices by changing their driving behavior and by shopping around for gas. This has been a trend.”
In addition, Harris said gas prices are falling in California because of the seasonal switch to winter blend gasolines from summer blends, which contain cost-adding additives to reduce pollution from gasoline evaporation in the summer heat.
In normal years, gas prices tend to spike in November in anticipation of increased holiday season travel “as we approach Thanksgiving,” Harris said. “That doesn’t appear to be the trend this year.”
“Gas prices have been falling, and they have been descending since the last quarter of 2013,” Harris said. “Normally, when there is more of a demand, prices go up. But we are seeing prices go down one to two cents per day.”
Call The Bee’s Peter Hecht, (916) 326-5539.