Gasoline buyers continue to be disenchanted with wildly fluctuating gas prices, even though they’ve stabilized and are slowly going down. Vladimir Rodriguez is typical.
“When gas prices go way up they raise it within the same week, when they bring it down it takes a couple of months,” said Rodriguez as he filled his tank at a Sacramento gas station.
Governor Jerry Brown authorized refineries to begin producing winter blend gas a few weeks early. The dirtier fuel is acceptable to Air Quality regulators during colder months and more can be produced than the summer blend. But drivers struggling to put gas in their tanks say they don’t see much relief.
“Winter blend, summer blend, it doesn’t make difference. The money all blends together,” said driver Wilma Smith.
Industry sources say some refineries have more supplies of winter blend than others. Some of the production goes to out-of-state buyers who can use it year around. There is also a lag time because commodity brokers will assess the market before lowering their prices for fear of dropping them too quickly.
And some gas stations, especially low volume independents, are still working off the supplies they purchased last week when wholesale gas cost them $4.70 a gallon. Today it was as low as $4.07 a gallon, but station owners are not likely to sell gas for less than they bought it for.
But Gordon Schremp, a gasoline specialist with the California Energy Commission said generally gas supplies get to the marketplace very quickly.
“It helps back fill some of those supply holes we saw with the unplanned refinery outages,” said Schremp.
The price spikes are blamed on a fire at a Richmond refinery and a power problem at a refinery in Southern California. But Schremp said wholesale prices drops will be reflected at the pump in the next two or three days.
“Retail prices in California have already peaked sort of hovering around $4.66, $4.67 a gallon on average. But that should start to break and come down over the next several days so that’s good news for consumers,” said Schremp.
In the meantime, Smith will use her gas buying strategy of partial fill-ups.
“I just put a little bit in at a time to get me to where I’m going and back off,” said Smith.