Bay Area gas prices see biggest spike in US; problems at CA refineries to blame

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Bay Area drivers, get ready for a big fast spike in gas prices -- $4 a gallon or more. The skyrocketing prices are due to problems at four California refineries, including one in the Bay Area.

Oakland resident Jon Tom says he's lucky compared to most Bay Area drivers. His commute is only 30 miles round trip. But like many Bay Area drivers, he's struggling to pay more at the pump.

"Gas here used to be around $3.80. Now it's $4.20 today," says Tom, who was buying gas in Emeryville. "A lot of people in the area aren't able to afford gas prices going up by 20 to 30 cents. It's pretty hefty on everybody's pockets."

Over the past few days, the Bay Area has seen an average increase of seven cents a gallon, the highest of anywhere in the U.S., according to Patrick DeHaan, an industry analyst at GasBuddy.com. He says some Bay Area locations have already raised prices as high as 20 cents a gallon. He expects Bay Area gas prices to skyrocket even more over the next week.

"Those in Northern California, including the Bay Area, may see a total impact of 15 to 30 cents per gallon in the next seven to 12 days," explains DeHaan.

DeHaan says California faces two problems.

First, he says there were production problems at four California refineries, including the Valero Benicia Refinery, all over the past week.

"It's very rare to see four refineries in one are going down at the same time," says DeHaan.

That drop in supply pushed up prices.

A new federal report released on Wednesday points out a big drop in gasoline inventory on the west coast, yet another concern for a state that can't keep up with demand.

"While it is unlikely anyone will see outages as a result of this, I can tell you that in storage tanks, gasoline supplies are drawing down," says DeHaan. "That's adding more problems to a pretty major challenge already. The market is very tight for fuel."

Lalo Garcia spent the evening cleaning his new Dodge Charger. He says the V-8 engines averages 20 miles a gallon. Garcia, who lives in Benicia, commutes to Tracy every day. He jokes that the Charger is staying home.

"Even if you are not paying attention to the pump, when it is finished, you see that huge increase in price. You're like -- 'Whoa, wait a minute!' It makes you mindful of how much you're pumping gas," says Garcia.

DeHaan says that it could take several days, or even up to several weeks, before the refineries are fully operational again, adding that gas prices will remain high until then.

Valero Benicia Refinery did not respond to an ABC7 News request for comment.
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