Pain at the pump
NICK MOLINE shrugs off gas prices approaching $5 a gallon at the 76 in Sonoma.
Skyrocketing gas prices have shocked motorists across the region, but they are beginning to flatten, and Gov. Jerry Brown’s action requesting that the California Energy Commission approve early production of winter-blend fuel should provide further relief, say industry analysts.
While Brown’s request was better late than never, they add, more could have been done to avoid the stratospheric price hikes.
The average price-per-gallon rose 50 cents a gallon statewide to an all-time high of $4.66 a gallon. In San Francisco the average hit $4.74, the highest in the region. Locally, prices have gone as high as $4.97 for a gallon of premium at the 76 on Broadway. Elizabeth Waldron, an attendant at the station joked that she’s thinking about getting a bulletproof vest to wear for protection when she has to go out and flip the prices ever higher on the sign in front of the station. Though, she said, she was optimistic prices would drop when the next delivery arrives today.
Disgruntled drivers could certainly use some good news. “It’s lousy,” said Jerry M. Clark of Sonoma, who added that luckily, as a retiree, he doesn’t have to drive all that much. “They’re gouging the public,” he grumbled.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., for one, seems inclined to agree with Clark. In an Aug. 28 letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), she called for an investigation into high gas prices in her home state, alleging price increases were “unjustified by supply and demand.” Again this week, she reiterated her claims in light of the historic surges in prices at the pump across the Golden State, averring “malicious trading schemes in the California gasoline market,” and berating the FTC for failing to investigate.
Nick Moline took a more fatalistic approach as he put $75-worth of premium into his ’66 Cadillac Coupe de Ville in downtown Sonoma. “There’s nothing you can do about it,” he shrugged. “My father told me, ‘If you can get it, and it’s a high price you should get it, because I remember a time when you couldn’t get it at all.’” California should avoid any such shortage this time around, say analysts.
Much of the current gas spike has been linked to a series of accidents, outages and routine pipeline maintenance that drove up the price per barrel in California. Another factor exacerbating the situation is that, due to strict emissions standards, California has a state-specific supply of gasoline, as opposed to other states where gas can move across state lines.
A major Chevron-owned refinery in Richmond, that processed approximately 240,000 barrels a day, has been offline since Aug. 6, and an Exon-Mobile refinery in the Southern California city of Torrance that processes 150,000 barrels a day, suffered a power failure last week and was out of commission until Friday.
Brown’s action will help stabilize and lower prices, said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com, but he added, “It would have been more effective had it come a week earlier.” Laskoski also questioned why the routine pipeline maintenance, which contributed to the unprecedented price spike last week, wasn’t rescheduled to another time.
Over the weekend, wholesale gas prices in California dropped sharply as the Torrance facility came back online and pipeline issues were resolved, and, said Laskoski, consumers could start to get some relief as early as Wednesday.
Cynthia Harris, spokesperson for AAA of Northern California, agreed that gas prices will come down gradually this week and should continue to drop in the coming weeks as production on the winter-blend ramps up. She hesitated to say that prices would return to normal, saying, “There is no normal anymore.”
For the latest up-to-date gas prices around the area see below:
|California Gas Prices provided to the Index-Tribune by GasBuddy.com|
|Click here to add this map to your website.|