Gas prices across the state have begun to stabilize following Gov. Jerry Brown’s letter to the California Air Resources Board urging it to allow California refineries to begin producing cheaper winter-blend gasoline earlier.
Sunday’s letter came in response to the recent statewide spike in gas prices, with rates in Berkeley reaching over $4.70 a gallon on Sunday, according to data from GasPriceData.com.
Winter-blend gasoline is a mixture that evaporates more quickly than summer-blend gasoline, which is better for air quality during the smog season, according to a press release from Brown.
“Allowing refiners to make an early transition to winter-blend gasoline could quickly increase fuel supply and provide a much needed safety valve with negligible air quality impacts,” Brown wrote in a letter to Mary Nichols, California Air Resources Board chairman.
Touchless Car Wash manager Mohamed Hammami said that when prices go up, traffic goes down at the gas station located on Kittredge Street in Downtown Berkeley.
“Maybe we sell 3,000 gallons a day — now we sell 2,000 gallons a day because it’s high,” said Hammami, noting that the high prices send more customers to gas stations that are generally cheaper, like Costco or Arco.
But Brown’s urging should help to lower gas prices across the state in the coming days, said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.
The skyrocketing prices were caused by a combination of supply and refinery problems, beginning with the Aug. 6 fire at a Chevron refinery in Richmond and continuing with several other production problems occurring in October, Laskoski said.
“At our Richmond refinery, the crude processing unit remains temporarily shut down because of the fire on August 6,” said Sean Comey, external communications adviser for Chevron. “Other parts of the refinery unaffected by the incident continue to operate.”
Still, the refinery problems have led to constraints in the supply of gasoline.
“All of those things have created an absolute perfect storm that have pushed California gas prices to record highs,” said Laskoski.
The price of a gallon of gasoline reached as high as $4.78 in Berkeley on Oct. 7, a significant increase from the $4.21 a gallon reported just days earlier on Oct. 3, according to data from GasPriceData.com.
“A lot of people are wondering why this is happening, but the refineries had no choice,” said Laskoski. “They had to follow the requirements of the California laws.”
The record level prices created some concern among Berkeley residents who tried to seek out the lowest possible price.
“I’m a little bit more cautious about buying gas and search out for the cheapest gas station available,” said Sean Robbins, a UC Berkeley senior. “It’s annoying that I have to go out of my way to find cheaper gas and that I have to pay more, but it hasn’t made a huge impact.”
Although Brown’s order should help bring down gas prices, Laskoski said the order should have come sooner. A longer-term negation of the large spike could take time.
“It’s probably going to be a number of weeks before California prices negate that spike,” said Laskoski.
Contact Mitchell Handler at [email protected].