Another Giant Gas Price Surge in California

But what are We the People going to do about that?

Transit Talking Points by: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

My curiosity of the latest surge in gas prices statewide all began after I noticed a local Chevron gas station raised their prices 14 cents per gallon overnight yesterday morning, from $3.55 up to $3.69 per gallon within a 24 hour period. This follows a slow and steady decline in prices during the last several weeks.

Just as prices were steadily going down and as the unacceptable price difference of about $1.30 per gallon between Inland Empire prices and national average was slowly shrinking back towards about a 60-75 cent per-gallon difference, the trend rapidly reversed course during the last 36-48 hours. Many gas stations I passed by yesterday went up 10-15 cents per gallon as the day progressed with some local stations posting some of the sharpest hikes I've personally ever seen.

The RS Service Station located on the eastern edge of the Corona Grand Avenue Circle for example, perhaps one of the least expensive places to refuel in west Riverside County has been hovering around $3.29 per gallon earlier this week. At 4:40pm yesterday afternoon, regular unleaded surged to $3.69, up an overwhelming 40 cents per gallon. The competing Arco station in the area--also another low price location for the region--still sold regular unleaded at $3.29 per gallon at that time; droves of motorists jammed into the Arco station during yesterday's afternoon rush hour to take advantage of the lower prices. But the biggest jump I saw was at a local Chevron station in north Temecula. At 6:15pm last night, the price for regular unleaded with cash payment was $4.29 per gallon, up a whopping 60 cents per gallon from $3.69.

The latest spike is reportedly in response to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report that was released Wednesday. Basically, the report says the West Coast's gasoline inventory is in decline even though our crude oil stockpiles have reached 465.4 million barrels as of June 26 and crude oil prices are dropping toward $52 per barrel. Immediately following the report, wholesale prices spiked 27 cents a gallon. Plus, a Gas Buddy price chart shows that fuel prices in California are taking the steepest price hikes once again by a substantial margin.

High Gas Prices? Do Something About It...

All right, enough with me complaining. This is not The Complaining Coalition. What are We the People going to do about this situation? What are We, Californians going to do take control of this awful economic problem? We simply cannot allow such spikes to continue to dictate how we live our lives. This has already happened once before earlier this year and we should not tolerate this nonsense anymore.

Short Range: Allow the imports of traditional fuel when special blend runs low.

For starters, the good folks at Gas Buddy urged its users yesterday to "fill up soon". Economics 101 teaches us that when prices are about to go up, buy when prices are low. Many people took advantage of that as demonstrated by the crowded central Corona Arco station yesterday. At the time of this post, some gas stations still have yet to adopt the higher prices. So, there is still time to lock in the lower prices for one more full tank.

Today, the gas price directory website firm has urged its California users to sign a petition asking Governor Jerry Brown and the EPA to issue an executive waiver on California's specific gasoline mandates until these extreme circumstances are corrected. That will allow California gas stations to import traditional fuel and would solve this inventory problem immediately.

While fuel supplies on the West Coast have been kept low, domestic crude oil stocks remain plentiful and the price of crude oil is falling.  Plus the national average for the price of regular unleaded did not spike as sharply as California's. There were also no reports of California oil refineries going out. That means there should be no excuse on earth for a fuel supply shortage. Good competition with efficient government oversight and allowing the marketplace to import traditional fuel in times of special-blend shortages whether caused by refinery problems or any other issue would solve the West Coast fuel supply shortage immediately, making this spike a short-lived event.

Longer Range Solutions to High Fuel Prices

Looking further ahead, The Transit Coalition has been very keen to support policies that expand mobility options and balance the job-to-housing ratios in order to cut down on fuel consumption demands.

Both LA and Orange County need to allow developers to expand in-fill housing infrastructure so that people can afford to live there without being crammed. The Inland Empire also needs to continue to grow its job market while ensuring housing here remains affordable. Plus, other car manufacturers need to begin to compete with Tesla, get more attractive and efficient zero-emissions cars into the marketplace so that these clean vehicles that would reduce pollution in the Inland Empire can become affordable and thus free us from the gas pump.

Coalition Concept: RTA Route 206 along conceptual I-15 HOT Express/toll lanes through Wildomar.
Note: Concept only. Not endorsed by RTA, RCTC or any public entity.
Let's not forget that the expansion of Metrolink and connecting express bus services would give commuters an incentive to use public transportation to get to-and-from work. While cleaner cars will bring us clean air, traffic congestion still remains a serious problem in California. Rail, transit, and high occupancy vehicle infrastructure development to support such expansion must continue. The state and federal governments need to be held to account to properly fund mobility.

But The Transit Coalition needs your help and support too. By supporting our non-ideological, fact-based campaigns, you can help us be the unified voice that would call for the declaration of freedom from high prices at California's gas pumps.

Editor's note: As of Friday, July 10, 2015 at 10:45pm, regular unleaded fuel at the Temecula Chevron gas station referenced at the start of the article was priced at $4.37 according to Gas Buddy, 82 cents per gallon higher from $3.55 on Wednesday at 5:45am. The RS Station in central Corona was at $3.99, up 70 cents from Wednesday while the competing Arco station was at $3.51, up 21 cents.