Why are gas prices rising so fast this spring?
Gasoline prices are slowly retreating in California, including Fresno and the central San Joaquin Valley, after a two-month surge that’s been hitting drivers at the fuel pumps.
The statewide average price for regular unleaded gasoline on Monday, May 20, was reported at $4.04 per gallon by AAA Gas Prices. That’s down by about three cents from a week ago, and it’s only two pennies higher than a month ago, when the average price was $4.02 per gallon.
In the Fresno market, Monday’s average price was $4.06 per gallon, a penny less than last week’s average. Similarly, average prices at the gas pumps were down across the Valley: by one cent in Kings, Merced and Tulare counties, and three cents in Madera County.
The average prices reflect a range of prices across gas stations in a market. Some stations have their fuel priced well above the market average, while others are selling gas for considerably less.
Despite the modest drops in average pump prices, gasoline remains much more expensive than it was just a couple of months ago, before the big run-up began. Monday’s prices in the Valley are between 75 cents and 83 cents higher than they were on March 11.
Nationwide, Monday’s average price for regular unleaded gasoline was $2.85 per gallon, down a penny from a week earlier and almost $1.20 cheaper than California’s statewide average. The falling prices come even as gasoline inventories are lower than they were a year ago.
“Gas prices are getting cheaper for the majority of motorists despite the fact that U.S. gasoline stocks sit at a 7 million barrel deficit year-over-year,” said Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokeswoman. “Crude oil prices have remained relatively stable the past few months, which is one reason helping prices be cheaper than last year at this time.”
Continuing uncertainty in international trade relations is also playing a role in gas prices, according to Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.com.
“With a trade deal with China seemingly more and more unlikely, we may continue to see weakness in oil and gasoline prices,” DeHaan said Monday. “Of course, trade tensions are not the only issue we’re monitoring for now, but we continue to believe that additional slow relief will trickle to pumps in the next week as more refiners get back into the game and boost production.”
“California, the nation’s priciest state for gasoline, will likely see average prices fall back under the $4 per gallon mark for the first time in a month, joined by major areas across the state,” DeHaan added. “I expect the bulk of states to see lower gas prices continue just in time for Memorial Day while some, inevitably, will see increases.”
In the immediate Fresno area, the lowest real-time fuel cash prices reported by customers Monday on GasBuddy.com were $3.69 per gallon at several stations, including a 76 station at Herndon Avenue and Highway 99 in northwest Fresno, a Fast ‘N’ Easy convenience store at Clinton Avenue and Fresno Street in central Fresno, the Costco gas station on West Shaw Avenue in northwest Fresno, and an ARCO station at Cherry and Jensen avenues in south Fresno.