Clovis News

Average gasoline price in Fresno hits $4

The average cost of a gallon of unleaded gasoline broke the $4 barrier Tuesday in Fresno -- and it's expected to keep rising in the near future.

The price was exactly $4, according to AAA of Northern California.

The Visalia-Tulare-Porterville area surpassed $4 Monday and hit $4.02 Tuesday.

The milestone brought back memories of the last time prices surged through $4 in spring of 2008 -- only this time many consumers said they were resigned to high prices.

"When I see it go up ... I cringe, but what am I going to do?" asked Bob Betancourt of Clovis, who was filling up at $4.05 a gallon at the Chevron at Shaw Avenue and First Street.

Betancourt runs Total Care Service, a business that cleans carpets, including after flooding. He spends $240 week on gas in his GMC Sierra 1500 pickup and the trailer it tows with its own gas tank to power his cleaning equipment.

Betancourt said high gas prices have changed how he does business. He limits his service area to between Madera and Sanger. And when customers ask for free estimates, he tries to do them over the phone.

Greg Rowe of Fresno, who also filled up at the Chevron, said he dislikes high prices, but he has no choice but spend the money.

"With the way that the city has spread out and without good public transportation, you have to drive," he said.

Area prices are slightly below the state average of $4.03, according to AAA. Nationwide, prices average $3.59 a gallon.

Prices will continue to climb in the short term in the Valley, said AAA spokesman Matt Skryja.

Unrest in the Middle East and north Africa is pushing prices upward, he said. An upcoming deadline for California refiners to switch to a summer blend of fuel will also make gas more expensive. The fuel burns more efficiently in hot weather and reduces air pollution, but costs more, he said.

And once summer vacation season starts, rising demand will push prices up too, Skryja said.

One thing slowing price increases: Japan.

Because of the damage by the earthquake and the tsunami, demand for oil by the country has dropped, Skryja said. That helps slow price increases.

That's no comfort to consumers, including several at Chevron who said they're dreading $5-a-gallon gas.

But Skryja said they shouldn't count on paying that much yet.

"It's way too early to even speculate on something like that," he said.

Related stories from Fresno Bee