Fuel costs set records

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Oakland Tribune

Gas prices hit record highs in Oakland and San Francisco on Tuesday, part of a statewide trend of rising prices at the pump.

California’s average gas price rose to $3.34 a gallon, up 23 cents in the past month and 69 cents since the beginning of theyear, a 26 percent increase, according to a report released Tuesday by AAA of Northern California.

The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded rose to $3.41 in Oakland, up 20 cents in the past month, and $3.53 in San Francisco, up 21 cents, AAA said. Both jumps set records, despite March predictions that prices had peaked. The Bay Area’s average rose 20 cents to $3.47.

“I consolidate errands and do them on the way home, and I drive more slowly to save gas,” said Ann Chamberlin of San Leandro, who is trying to conserve gas in response to the higher prices. Chamberlin is not alone.

Consumption of gasoline is on a downward trend for the first time in more than a decade, according to state government statistics.

“I have an SUV, unfortunately. I’m the next in line for a hybrid,” said Berah McSwain of Oakland, who said he is feeling the effect of the higher prices.

Tahoe City had the state’s most expensive gas prices, at $3.60 for a gallon of unleaded; the region’s lowest was $3.27 in Santa Rosa and Vallejo.

Refinery production has been lower than what is typical this time of year, according to the California Energy Commission, and the low supply has fueled higher prices. Regular maintenance to switch from winter to summer fuel took longer and there were unplanned production problems, according to AAA.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a consumer watchdog group based in Santa Monica, sees it differently.

“The spread between gas prices and crude costs is greater than it has been for a very long time,” said Jamie Court, the group’s president. “There’s no explanation other than price gouging.”

Tupper Hull of the Western States Petroleum Association responded, “This industry has been investigated again and again and has never been found to engage in price gouging or any form of anti-competitive behavior.”

Regardless of the cause, consumers are suffering at the pump. Cutting back on usage and shopping for low prices are two ways to cope.

To find the lowest gas prices in your area, visit www.aaa.com/gasprices or www.gasbuddy.com. The California Energy Commission Consumer Energy Center offers gas-saving tips at www.consumerenergycenter.org.

Consumer Watchdog
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