The days of record high gas prices in Santa Rosa appear to be over. Let’s hope.
AAA reported Wednesday that the average price for regular in the Santa Rosa area had dropped less than a penny to $4.642 from the record $4.65 reported the day before. Just a week ago it had been $4.251 and a month ago it had been $4.187.
Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for gasbuddy.com, said he expects prices in Santa Rosa and across California to continue to fall, “but they’re not falling as fast as they should.”
He said the wholesale price of gas dropped about a $1 a gallon in the last few days after shooting up more than a $1 immediately before the spike after production was cut in the state by an oil pipeline problem, brief shutdown of a Torrance refinery, the lingering effects of the Chevron Richmond refinery fire and maintenance at two other refineries.
DeHaan said Gov. Jerry Brown’s order on Sunday allowing refineries to start making cheaper winter-blend gas early has helped cut the wholesale price but most gas stations haven’t received that less expensive fuel.
He said Brown should have acted sooner than he did, noting that gasbuddy.com predicted more than a week ago that California motorists “were going to get socked” with huge price increases, but “why it took him Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and part of Sunday to act I don’t know…. Maybe asking a governor to keep up on wholesale gas prices is too much to ask.”
He said Brown should keep an eye on retail gas prices and, if necessary, “tap the backs of station owners” if they don’t lower their prices enough.
Drivers’ reports on gasbuddy.com on Wednesday showed some local stations had cut their prices but only slightly.
One company that tried to hold the line on prices was Rotten Robbie, which has six stations in Sonoma County and one in Lakeport in addition to more around the Bay Area.
Tom Robinson, owner of Robinson Oil Co. and the Rotten Robbie stations, said the gas price spike forced him to raise prices to $4.59 for regular but he stopped there even though he was losing money for a day or two before wholesale prices started to ease. He said if wholesale costs hadn’t dropped, he probably would have raised his prices more.
He said $4.59 was the highest his stations have charged, even in 2008 when crude oil had soared to about $150 a barrel. Now it’s about $92 a barrel.
Robinson said he stopped at $4.59 because he thought the wholesale jump had topped out or was about to, and “our business model is to be a competitive alternative.”
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” he said.
DeHaan said gas prices should drop 10 to 15 cents a gallon by the weekend, but it may take a couple of weeks or longer before prices are down to where they had been before the spike.
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