Higher and higher: Valley gas prices creeping closer to $4 per gallon

The statewide average price for regular unleaded gasoline in crept over $4 per gallon on Monday, continuing a precipitous climb that is forcing drivers to dig deeper into their pockets to top off their tanks.

The AAA Gas Price Report showed that California’s average price rose by a penny, from $3.99 to $4, between Sunday and Monday. It’s also 20 cents higher than a week ago, and it’s up 67 cents over the March 15 average.

Prices in the central San Joaquin Valley are still climbing, too, and aren’t far behind the state average. In Fresno, Monday’s average price for regular unleaded was $3.94, up by 11 cents since Thursday and 24 cents since April 8. A month ago, the price was $3.27 per gallon.

Fuel prices in other Valley markets:

Madera/Chowchilla: $3.96 on Monday, $3.74 on April 8, $3.24 on March 15.

Hanford/Corcoran: $3.95 on Monday, $3.66 on April 8, $3.27 on March 15.

Visalia/Tulare/Porterville: $3.94 on Monday, $3.71 on April 8, $3.28 on March 15.

Merced: $3.94 on Monday; $3.75 on April 8, $3.35 on March 15.

The highest average gas price among California’s metro areas on Monday was along the Central Coast, in the San Luis Obispo / Atascadero / Paso Robles market. There, prices averaged $4.16 per gallon, compared to $3.50 per gallon a month ago. Among California’s counties, sparsely populated Mono County saw an average price of $4.75 per gallon, the highest price of any California county.

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Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked in the Valley as a reporter and editor since 1986, and has been at The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.