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Yuba-Sutter motorists feel pain at the pump
Summer-grade fuel is arriving earlier than normal this year, and AAA suggests the seasonal transition is one of the reasons why prices at the pump are surging.
Cynthia Harris, spokeswoman for AAA Northern California, notes four reasons for the upward swing:
• Changes at refineries.
• Increasing crude oil prices.
• Growing economy.
• Mild winter weather.
She said 25 percent of refineries are experiencing shutdowns in preparation for the conversion to summer gasoline.
"Anytime's there's a scheduled maintenance, there's a spike in price ... it's a reaction to refineries shutting down," Harris said Wednesday. "This year, for some reason, they have started the summer blend earlier ... usually they start it in March."
Summer blends are produced to cut down on emissions because air pollution is worse during the warm months and more people are driving.
Paul Kaile, owner of Flyers gas station on E Street in Marysville, said he has heard about gas companies starting to do the summer blend and is guessing that prices will begin to decrease in March.
He said customers, who had seen prices at hovering around $3.40 per gallon at the end of last month, are most concerned about the price of a gallon going over $4. The flux has resulted in decreased business, he said. "With prices going up, people just don't go out as much," Kaile said.
Filling up his 1996 Subaru Legacy at the ARCO station on the other side of E Street on Wednesday was Lincoln resident Rory Walker, who commutes all over the north state for his job as a mobile mechanic. He tops off his car about every four days, spending about $20 to $25 each time.
"It hurts, but you get through it and hope it gets better," Walker said.
Greg Tavis, district sales manager for Red Bull, was completing orders at Flyers. He rides with a sales representative each weekday from Sacramento's Natomas neighborhood to Marysville in a new TerraStar truck, which holds 24 gallons in its tank.
"We go through probably half a tank a day," Tavis said. "Completely empty is about $120 bucks (to fill up). Last month, it was about $96."
But unlike other commuters headed to Yuba County, Tavis said his gas is paid for.
"I got my gas card. It's a company card," Tavis said. "I'm one of the lucky ones."
Prices creep toward $4 a gallon
AAA reported this week that the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.75; that is 19 cents higher than the national average price a year ago and a 44-cent increase over the past month. California has the second-highest state average, at $4.18.
Yuba City has the second-lowest average statewide for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, at $3.96.
It's trailing only a cent behind Modesto, where the average is $3.95, and a cent above the Chico-Paradise area, at $3.97. Los Angeles-Long Beach and Orange County are the highest in the state at $4.30, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
— Laura van der Meer