Gas prices shoot past $4 around SLO County

Thomas Sudderth, a Grover Beach resident and chef at the Rib Line in SLO, pumps gas at the Chevron station on Los Osos Valley Road near Highway 101.
Thomas Sudderth, a Grover Beach resident and chef at the Rib Line in SLO, pumps gas at the Chevron station on Los Osos Valley Road near Highway 101.

Drivers visiting local gas stations were fuming over high gasoline prices on Monday — though better news is expected as the week goes on.

Gas cost more than $4 at various locations around San Luis Obispo County on Monday, with at least two stations — the Shell at the intersection of Santa Rosa and Higuera streets in San Luis Obispo and the Shell on Shell Beach Road in Pismo Beach — reaching $4.79 for regular unleaded.

Prices at other stations in the San Luis Obispo area ranged from $4.07 to $4.49 for regular and up to $4.69 for supreme. The best price in town Monday was at Costco, where members could pay $3.63 a gallon.

“It sucks,” Thomas Sudderth, a chef at Rib Line in San Luis Obispo, said of the price increase. “I noticed it right when I drove up. Since I commute from Grover (Beach), I pretty much have to bite the bullet.”

Another driver who stopped off to fill up at the Chevron station at Santa Rosa and Foothill, where regular gas cost $4.37 a gallon, called the prices “annoying.”

“It’s pretty ridiculous and, yes, annoying,” Sechin Ozturk said. “I live in San Diego, and when I left, the prices were about $3.60 there.” analysts say the price increases are occurring because of “an extraordinary convergence of fuel supply problems” that have caused “severe spikes with no immediate relief in sight.”

Other analysts blame California’s special blend of less-polluting gasoline as well as problems at three refineries in the southern part of the state.

The average cost of gas across the country — $2.76 — is a whopping 83 cents less than in California. Usually the gap is in the 20- to 30-cent range.

But wholesale prices have eased up a bit, meaning retail prices at the pump will also start to drop, according to the Los Angeles Times.

By Wednesday, the huge increases seen over the weekend will likely taper off, but they’re not expected to fall as quickly as they rose.

“They definitely do not drop as they rise,” said Allison Mac, petroleum analyst for Gas Buddy.

Last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released a report saying there was a lack of fuel imports to California, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for Gas Buddy.

Since then, wholesale prices have increased. It took local gas stations about four to five days to match the jump, he said.

The demand will likely be cushioned by gasoline shipments from Europe and Asia, DeHaan said.

“High prices always attract more gasoline cargos,” he said.

Two out-of-state travelers who were visiting the San Luis Obispo area on Monday, Nicole and Cindy De La Torre, said gas where they live is significantly cheaper.

Where Nicole De La Torre lives in Oregon, she said, gas costs $2.89. Cindy De La Torre said that gas in Arizona, where she lives, is $2.65.

“But it’s not surprising to us,” Nicole De La Torre said. “We’ve lived in California before, and gas was always high here.”

Arroyo Grande High School student Kiran Mangat said she hopes gas prices drop soon.

“I like to see them get below $4,” Mangat said as she filled up at a Chevron on Los Osos Valley Road. “How about $3.50? Or even $3? That sounds a lot better to me.”

Efron Rodriguez, who operates the Shell station at Santa Rosa Street and Foothill Boulevard, said many customers have complained about the high prices — but there’s nothing he can do.

“I talk to my bosses about the prices in the area, and they tell me what to set them at,” Rodriguez said. “Some people even think I get a discount. I don’t. I drive in from Santa Maria.”

Big Sur resident Elizabeth Meisman said she uses the Gas Buddy crowdsourcing app to locate the cheapest stations in her vicinity.

Meisman said that she makes a point to gas up in communities such as San Luis Obispo, where she refueled on Monday, or Monterey. “It costs about $7 per gallon at the stations close to Big Sur,” Meisman said. “I never buy gas there. So I use Gas Buddy and fill up in bigger communities.”