Drivers had put up with higher prices before Memorial Day because a state refinery went offline for repairs. That’s the likely culprit again, although this time the closed refinery is in Richmond, Calif.
AAA Washington spokesman Dave Overstreet said average gasoline prices in Washington have jumped 17 cents since that fire eight days ago, to a statewide average of $3.89, about 19 cents higher than the national average.
Several other factors influence gasoline prices this time of year, including the demands of the summer driving season, geopolitical concerns in Iran and a drought in the Midwest that has boosted the price of corn and therefore ethanol, which is blended into gasoline, Overstreet said.
West Coast prices tend to be higher, too, because the region has fewer refineries and less oil company competition compared with the Midwest and East Coast. Those areas are served by companies and refineries near the Gulf Coast, Overstreet said.
“It’s not a pretty picture,” he said, although he added that after Labor Day, gasoline prices tend to fall, signaling summer’s end.
Whatever the reason, drivers at Hulbert Shell in Olympia on Tuesday weren’t pleased.
Hiram Stevens, 67, of Olympia said he can spend as much as $40 to fill his Jeep or about $10 less when prices drop.
“It depends on the week,” he said.
One thing he’s not doing is taking his RV on long-distance trips; it gets 7.5 miles to the gallon, Stevens said.
Margaret Rennie, 53, of Olympia said she can spend as much as $280 a month to fill her car with gasoline, so she has cut back on the places she drives. She said she wishes those who make money off these higher prices had more compassion for those who don’t.
Fred Sutter, 70, of Olympia pumped about $60 worth of gasoline into his Mercedes-Benz, joking that tears were about to run down his face.
“When the price goes down by 50 cents, it feels like a pay raise,” Sutter said.
He also owns an RV that he doesn’t plan to drive as much because of the higher prices and its mileage of 9 miles per gallon.
“It’s tough,” Sutter said.