By Katherine Quezada and Perry Smith
If you noticed that filling up at the pump in the last couple of weeks has left your pocketbook feeling a little lighter than usual, you’re probably not alone.
The road ahead is uncertain due to the number of factors that can affect seasonal supplies in California, according to Marie Montgomery, a public relations specialist for Automobile Club of Southern California.
But over the past seven days, a number of those factors have converged, resulting in the third-fastest increase in gas prices the Auto Club has seen in the decades since it started tracking such data, she said.
A 38-cent-per-gallon statewide hike pushed the average price past $6 per gallon in California on Thursday.
In the Santa Clarita Valley, motorists were paying a pretty wide range for a gallon of regular gas based on the prices available on Gasbuddy.com, from almost $5.50 at the Mobil on Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road to almost $6.40 at the Shell on Bouquet and Seco canyon roads in Saugus.
At the Shell station on The Old Road and Magic Mountain Parkway, where the price for regular gas was $5.99 per gallon, Dale Banks was filling up his Chevrolet Silverado and called the prices “ridiculous.”
When prices creep up like that, they can drastically affect his decision to drive somewhere, he said.
“It’s unreal. Everything is so outrageous in price,” he said, as he put about $50 of gas in his truck. “Fifty dollars? That’s a bill.”
Montgomery said at the root of the issue was state regulations involving the type of gasoline that can be sold and its available supply. It’s a problem that happened last year as well, just a week later.
“There was a supply problem due to California requirements that we sell, what we call the ‘summer blend’ of gasoline until Oct. 31,” Montgomery said, “and then we switch over to the cheaper-to-produce ‘winter blend’ of gasoline after that.”
And, similar to last year, issues at local refineries, which this year included planned maintenance at one of the region’s largest producers, have worsened a supply shortage.
A possible fix could be what happened last year, which is that the state could step in and allow the sale of the winter blend slightly earlier.
“That immediately had an effect of dropping the gas price,” Montgomery said, adding she had yet to hear if that was in the cards for this year.
“It’s definitely frustrating. I drive from Castaic to Sherman Oaks,” said commuter Jade Penic. “It’s getting harder to survive and live out in California.”
Montgomery did say Thursday morning that the overnight price indicated it was trending down, which didn’t mean much except that she had a bit of good news to report about the prices and that hasn’t been the case “for weeks,” she added.
It’s been part of a broader trend since the pandemic in 2020, when the average price for all formulations of retail gasoline in California hit a seven-year low of $3.13 per gallon. In the last two years, the average price has increased about $2.30 per gallon.
“There’s mixed signals,” she added about the one-day drop. “So, it might not mean anything, or it could mean something, but we’ll see.”