This week, average gas prices in some areas of California shot past the $6 per gallon mark.
Gasoline prices in the last few years have varied wildly, with California often getting the brunt of the constant changes. While the fluctuations have been hurting California less in the 2020’s because of electric vehicles now taking up almost a quarter of the car market in the state, the proliferation of cars still means that the highest gas prices will continue to be on the West Coast.
Last year, inflation, the war in Ukraine, supply issues and other factors set record highs in California. Average prices statewide spiked at $6.43 in June of last year, with areas like Mendocino seeing prices climb to nearly $10 a gallon. Individual stations in remote places like Death Valley even hit the double digit mark. While things calmed down for the rest of the year and for much of 2023, prices once again began to drastically go up in recent weeks. Inclement weather, China paying higher prices for oil, Saudi Arabia and Russia cutting production for the rest of the year, inflation, and other factors.
In California that once again meant wildly varying gas prices across the state. According to new information released by AAA this week, the average regular gas price per gallon in California is at $5.79, nearly $2 higher than the national average of $3.87. Leading the pack with the highest price by area is Los Angeles-Long Beach, coming in with an average price of $6.06. This is followed by Orange County with $6.01, San Luis Obispo-Atascadero-Paso Robles with an even $6, and San Diego with $5.99. Northern California proved, like always, to be somewhat less. San Francisco’s average was at $5.67 a gallon. San Jose was even lower with $5.57, with Oakland and Sacramento coming in respectively at $5.61 and $5.54.
Coming in at the lowest amount for a surveyed area was Modesto, which had an average of $5.40 this week. Chico-Paradise was a close second with $5.41. While some rural areas did report lower prices, they were not included on the weighted averages for areas of the state. While the prices are nowhere near the highs of last year, with Los Angeles’ high mark this year still 40 cents a gallon short of meeting the highest statewide average price of last year, experts have said that prices could still go up, especially since the OPEC cuts in production are expected to last through the end of the year.
“California has always had higher prices in general due to a lot of factors, like the high transportation cost of bringing in gas from the East,” explained fuel price researcher Glenn Brown. “LA has a lot more demand than, say, Fresno, so prices there tend to be higher. These are broad strokes, because there are a lot of other factors here, but surface level that’s it.”
“Right now, a big reason for the disparity is the high gas tax. California was thinking of getting rid of the tax for a year, which would lower gas prices by a dollar or so, but this was rejected. The tax goes to road maintenance, public transit, and other related areas, so many weren’t keen on it going away for a year.”
“The state isn’t doing anything alleviate prices now. Another inflation refund would really dig into the state budget and trying to get more people to take public transit or drive electric cars only moves so fast. The majority of Californians still rely on gas and diesel. And the way things are looking, prices likely won’t go down by much, if at all, for the rest of the year if all these different factors keep up. OPEC just did, and it is looking more and more like high gas prices to continue.”
“Watch LA prices. They are usually the one to watch as they are the most sensitive to price changes.”
As of Thursday, the average price in California is currently at $5.79 a gallon.