As experts predicted, that offshore wave of rising wholesale gas prices came crashing ashore Wednesday, pushing gasoline prices higher here and nationwide.
Overnight Tuesday, gas prices spiked 4 cents a gallon in Sacramento and throughout California, which national gas price tracker GasBuddy.com attributed to the increasing cost of wholesale fuel.
GasBuddy, which does a daily survey of more than 700 gas outlets in the Sacramento area, said the average retail price of gas in the region Wednesday was $2.38 a gallon, compared with $2.34 Tuesday. Statewide, the overnight bump pushed the average price from $2.45 to $2.49.
Nationwide, the average at-the-pump price popped from $2.06 Tuesday to $2.11 Wednesday.
Energy experts had predicted Monday that the recent, steady climb of wholesale fuel would hit home this week in the form of rising gas prices.
In a nationwide report issued Wednesday, GasBuddy said the price climb “has been brewing since Jan. 7.” Since then, wholesale fuel prices have climbed 25 to 30 cents a gallon. GasBuddy said wholesale prices climbed an average 11.5 cents nationwide since Monday.
GasBuddy said San Francisco saw the nation’s steepest wholesale fuel cost increase: 24 cents a gallon since Monday. The average retail cost of gasoline in San Francisco on Wednesday was $2.66 per gallon.
“It’s an indication that the prices at the pump in most areas will be climbing steadily and in some other areas, like the Great Lakes region, we’ll see steeper climbs,” said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy. For instance, he said, Michigan’s average price Tuesday was $2.09 but hit $2.23 Wednesday.
Another GasBuddy analyst, Los Angeles-based Allison Mac, said “California and the Pacific Northwest now have the highest wholesale prices in the nation, so some of the largest increases are expected in California.” She said that’s largely due to “the head start” that California refineries have in the annual switchover to more expensive blends of spring/summer gasoline.
Mac said the general range of wholesale prices in California is around $1.70 to $1.80 a gallon. She said current wholesale prices in Sacramento are comparatively cheap at $1.65 a gallon.
A wild card in the mix is crude oil, which shot up $3.48 to $53.05 Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its fourth consecutive daily increase. That also helped drive U.S. stock markets higher Tuesday. On Wednesday, however, crude went the other way, falling $4.29 to close at $48.76 on the NYME.
Mac said “it would be a mistake” to link crude’s latest gyrations to what is happening this week in gas prices.
“It’s coincidental, but at the same time we shouldn’t overlook it since crude oil and retail gasoline prices move in tandem the majority of the time. … Crude is so fickle. It’s sell, sell, then buy, buy. I don’t think that’s going to affect (gas prices) in the short-term.”
Despite that, gas prices in California are now definitely on the upward path, she said.
“In California, we’re looking at (gas prices) going up probably through Cinco de Mayo (May 5) time,” she said. “The good news is that we’re still pretty low compared with what we were paying in the past.”
Wednesday’s statewide average of $2.49 a gallon is 15 cents cheaper than what Golden State motorists were paying one month ago, and a whopping $1.08 below the year-ago price. The Sacramento-area average of $2.38 is down from $2.54 last month and $3.40 one year ago.
Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.