By Mark Archuleta
“You have a tremendous shortage right now. You could be in this situation for the next couple of weeks, believe it or not. We don’t know there’s an immediate solution on the table,” said Gregg Laskoski, Senior Petroleum Analyst, GasBuddy.com.
Laskoski says California is caught in a perfect storm that is limiting fuel supplies. The supply chain problems can be traced as far back as August with the Chevron refinery fire in Richmond.
“That was 240,000 barrels a day that was removed from your infrastructure,” said Laskoski.
Add to that more recent events. On Monday the Exxon refinery in Torrance lost power. Two Phillips 66 refineries are temporarily shut down for maintenance issues, and a pipeline in Northern California was shut down because it had elevated levels of organic chloride.
“So all of these things are just making a nightmare,” said Laskoski.
GasBuddy.com is reporting an average price for a gallon of gasoline in the state of California at $4.55 a gallon. LA is at $4.60 and San Francisco is at $4.67. The Low-P gas station in Calabasas is selling at $5.69 a gallon. (Not a typo, that is a 5.)
Saugus resident Bonnie Shierts had an epiphany while at the Mobile station on Garzota and DeCoro yesterday.
“I’m sitting there pumping the gas and I’m thinking ‘Oh, I’m going to take a picture to post on my Facebook page,” said Shierts.
Her girlfriends and family joined in by sending photos of gas station signs bearing their pump prices. That turned into the Share SCV Gas Prices Facebook fan page.
“I figured if we’re posting pictures and we could put the date and time we were there, if you’re driving down the street and you go ‘Oh, I need gas and it’s close by your house and you usually go to the Chevron off the 5 freeway and its 15 cents cheaper here in town, than it is along the freeway… wouldn’t that make a difference to you if you have a Ford F-150, Ford F-350 and it costs close to $200? That’s a nice chunk of change,” said Shierts.
The problem isn’t simply about finding the best price, it’s about finding a gas station that’s open.
“Costco and a number of stations are shutting down because they just don’t have the gasoline to pump. In some instances the stores are saying its costing them so much. . You’re looking at wholesale prices that are just sky high and what those retailers are saying is that they’re not going to pay that price it’s not viable to them to even to try and sell gas at that price,” said Laskoski.
One might wonder why California can’t just bring in gas from other states.
“Unfortunately, the state is like an island unto yourself from an energy perspective, because your fuel requirements preclude California from accepting gasoline from Arizona, or Nevada, Oregon. You’re just not in a position to do that,” said Laskoski.
Laskoski calls California’s fuel standards, which are more stringent than federal regulations, absurd when it comes to supply problems like the state has now.
“It would probably make sense that we had a single blend of gasoline to burn 12 months out of the year that could be used in California or Chicago or Texas or New York. I don’t think states should have different blends of gasoline,” said Laskoski.
In the short term there is one straw of hope.
“Hopefully the Phillips 66 plants would have canceled any maintenance issues they were looking to take care of knowing what’s happening in the rest of the state. You need as much refining capacity you could possibly summon right now,” said Laskoski.
With gas prices this high, now might be the perfect opportunity to stay home and connect with your Facebook friends who can’t afford to drive anywhere either.
Loskoski is a former news reporter (Gannett Westchester Newspapers, NY) and has also worked for AAA Auto Club, communicating with reporters daily on fuel price trends since 2002. He joined the GasBuddy Organization in 2011 and is based in Tampa, FL.