Gasoline prices bounced up 26 cents in the last month statewide and in Santa Rosa, an AAA Northern California survey said Tuesday, citing the perennial springtime surge in consumption and the imminent switch to more costly summer-blend fuel.
The upswing — bringing the average price in Santa Rosa to $3.84 a gallon — follows the "typical yearly trend" of fuel costs rising in spring, peaking during the summer and decreasing through the fall, the AAA said.
Energy analysts expect gas prices to climb over the next month due to "seasonal refinery maintenance and the required switchover to produce summer-blend gasoline," said Cynthia Harris, an AAA Northern California spokeswoman.
Unanticipated refinery maintenance and escalating "geopolitical tensions with Russia" could add to the price inflation, she said.
Bennett paid $32.30 for about eight gallons of gas, but she's not buying the explanations.
"I think there's a monopoly on gas," she said. "The big gas companies collude and set the prices. It's whatever they can get away with."
Prices at Santa Rosa area gas stations ranged from a low of $3.49 for a gallon of regular up to $4.09 at the Airport Boulevard Chevron, according to the website GasBuddy.com.
Thirty stations were below the area's $3.84 average; 13 were above it.
Jeff Reed of Willits put $40 worth of the $4.09 gas into his Dodge Ram pickup.
"Nothing surprises me any more with petroleum prices," he said. "It gets to be a grin and bear it type of thing."
Reed said he drove past stations in Willits with gas for $3.62 a gallon. "I just wasn't paying attention," he said.
Around California, prices in the past month rose from 17 cents a gallon in Ukiah up to 32 cents in San Rafael and Sacramento, the AAA survey said.
Northern California's average price of $3.84 on Tuesday was up 26 cents from February, but still 26 cents lower than it was a year ago when it climbed past $4, the survey said.
The national average price at the pump was $3.49, the highest price in nearly six months after climbing steadily for 31 straight days and gaining 22 cents, the AAA said.
Spring starts next week and with it comes California's mandated conversion to cleaner burning gasoline, which costs more to produce. By April 1, most parts of the state must have made the switch, Harris said.
Crude oil, the primary cost driver for gasoline, came down to $100 a barrel Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest price in a month.
Tensions over Russia's incursion into Ukraine drove crude oil prices to a six-month high early last week amid concerns of an escalation in economic sanctions between the West and Russia, a major oil producer.
Those concerns have since been replaced by worries that an economic slowdown in China could undercut oil prices, while Europe and the United States have promised a limited form of sanctions against Russia.
California motorists may be pinched in a whole new way next year when the state's greenhouse gas reduction law forces fuel distributors into the cap-and-trade marketplace.
The law sets a cap on emissions of heat-trapping gases and requires companies to pay for each ton of pollution they emit.
That will lead to immediate price increases of at least 12 cents a gallon, the oil industry says, while state regulators say price spikes could range from barely noticeable to double digits.