It’s not your imagination. California, like the rest of the nation, pays more at the pump.
Prices are so high – and consumers are so confused – that a Google search for “Why are gas prices rising?” has risen this month. Similarly, people ask, “When will gas prices fall?” which has also been trending on Google.
The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $ 4.54 in California, which is about $ 1.16 higher than the national average, according to data from AAA.
But a bold station along the Big Sur coast is charging $ 7.59 a gallon for plain lead-free this week and nearly $ 8.50 for premium.
Gorda by the Ocean Mini Mart, located along a remote stretch of Highway 1 in Monterey County, warns: “Next gas 40 miles north, 12 miles south.”
Although the sticker shock at Gorda’s pumps has gained national attention, experts say prices are an anomaly.
“99.9% of motorists do not buy gasoline for over $ 5,” said UC Berkeley energy economist Severin Borenstein.
Yet prices are constantly rising throughout the state. On Friday, the average price of a gallon of self-service regular gasoline in Los Angeles County rose for the 11th day in a row, the biggest increase from week to week since March.
And prices in Southern California are the highest they have been in the last decade. In the counties of Los Angeles and Orange, motorists pay about $ 19 more to fill a standard 14-gallon tank than they did a year ago.
“Typically, we’re starting to see prices fall after Labor Day because people have ended their summer vacations,” said AAA spokesman Doug Shupe. “But this year is different.”
A jump in crude oil costs, accounting for just over half the price of the pump, has contributed to rising petrol prices.
For much of the 2020 year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, home bookings and limited travel-rising crude prices. Last October, a barrel of raw material cost just under $ 35, according to the Energy Information Administration. A year later, crude oil futures are closer to $ 85 – an increase of more than 140%.
“Demand is back. It’s been a tough couple of years with the pandemic, ”Shupe said. “Now, with the increased vaccinations, more people want to get out there to share the open roads with friends and family.”
Californians have always cut back more on gas than in other parts of the United States due to higher taxes and environmental taxes. Since 1996, cleaner-burning gasoline has cost more — but the trade-off has been cleaner skies, Borenstein said.
“Forty years ago, you could not see the mountains of Los Angeles,” he said. “Now you can.”
There is also a “mysterious petrol surcharge” that Borenstein says appeared in 2015, which is unclear to the average consumer and even experts like himself. The high prices have been so unsettling that Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the California Energy Commission for an analysis in 2019, suggesting that “inappropriate industry practices” increased costs per capita. Gallon rather than the state supplement.
Experts say there should be some relief in the coming weeks as service stations in California switch to their winter blends, which are cheaper to produce. In November, prices could fall about 12 cents, but Shupe said higher butane and crude oil costs are likely to make the drop less significant than in previous years.
Grasping gas prices is understandable – and universal. But Borenstein said he has a different way of looking at the numbers: “In some ways, what we see reflects some good news: The economy is returning.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.