Santa may have reigned at the gas pump for a while, but it looks like the Scrooge is back with rising fuel prices for motorists.
The average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline in Santa Rosa inched up 4 cents over the past week, to just under $3.52, according to the American Automobile Association.
The increase, which reverses a two-month decline in pump prices, was as high as 16 cents for one gas station in town over the past week, and two local station owners on Friday reported raising their prices 4 to 7 cents in the last three days.
Some wary consumers said they had noticed the uptick.
Dina Romo, 36, of Windsor, was filing up her car with supreme gasoline Friday from a Santa Rosa Chevron station that was 12 cents more expensive than the same octane fuel she bought at a different station on Sunday.
"Christmas is over and now it's going to start going up again," she said.
Industry officials attributed the increase to a recent uptick in the wholesale cost of gas, driven primarily by climbing crude oil prices.
Crude oil prices had been as low as $85 a barrel in late November and early December, triggering the steady drop in retail gas prices from October's record highs. That's when crude oil hit $147 a barrel and a gallon of regular gas averaged $4.65 in Santa Rosa.
By last week, the average pump price was down to $3.48 in town. But with crude oil now up to just under $91 a barrel, and wholesale gas prices rising as a result, retail prices have begun their rebound, petroleum officials said.
"The big decreases we've seen are coming to a grinding halt," said Steve White, vice president and chief financial officer of San Jose-based Robinson Oil Corp., which owns the Rotten Robbie gas stations.