Gas prices in California now average $2.66 per gallon for regular unleaded, up 5 cents from last month, said the report from AAA of Northern California. That's 43 cents higher than the national average of $2.23, which was unchanged from a month ago. The gap is even wider in the Bay Area, where the average price jumped 10 cents this month to $2.84 a gallon. Tracy had the region's lowest average price at $2.58 a gallon.
"California always has higher gas prices than the rest of the country," said Sean Comey, spokesman for AAA of Northern California. "It's just that now they're even higher. Our cleaner-burning gas costs more to make, but not this much more."
Cold weather in many parts of the country increased demands for home heating oil, leading to higher costs for crude oil, the raw material from which gasoline is made, Comey said. Also, energy market traders may be bidding up the price of crude oil because they're anxious over confrontational relations between the U.S. and Iran. And state gasoline refineries have had problems that led to lower production than usual for this time of year, AAA said.
Still, even within California, gas prices can vary from stationto station. Comey urges drivers to shop around.
In some areas of California we are seeing a wide range of prices, sometimes 20 cents per gallon or more between stations that are only a few miles apart," Comey said.
Chadd Wolfe of Berkeley buys his gas at Costco or Arco "the two cheapest places in my area," he said. Wolfe said he hasn't noticed a jump in prices.
Alex Duenas of Richmond said he has noticed that prices are up a few cents a gallon. He takes BART to work in San Francisco, but drives to the BART station.
"We have noticed that gas prices are up," said Jane Bergen of Berkeley.
"They go up very fast and come down very slowly," added her husband, Arthur Bergen.
The two have adjusted their habits to conserve gas.
"We drive less and take public transportation more," Jane Bergen said. "We put a lot of thought into saving gas. We bought a (Toyota) Prius."
Contact Janis Mara at (510) 208-6468 or email@example.com. Check out her Energy Blog at InsideBayArea.com.