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Refinery Problems Send California Gas Prices Soaring

BENICIA (KPIX 5) -- With the booming economy and busy freeways, getting from place to place in the Bay Area can be time-consuming. And with a recent spike in gas prices, it's becoming more costly as well.

The Valero refinery in Benicia is having some kind of problem that's causing it to cut production way back. But it's one of three refineries in the state having difficulties. Those difficulties are having a profound effect on people's pocket books.

The sudden rise in the price of gas at the Shell station in on North Main in Walnut Creek was causing Rachael Domingo to have a moment.

"And it's probably, what, $4.29?" she said staring at the pump.  "Listen, let's talk about it! It's a situation and it's a problem!"

Seemingly overnight, the price of gas has vaulted over the four dollar mark. AAA's Michael Blasky says cutbacks at two refineries in Southern California and at Valero in Benicia are affecting the entire state.

"California has a pretty unique gasoline economy. It's very isolated from the rest of the states," Blasky said. "So when we have problems here we can't just go easily import from other states because of the strict requirements on our fuel."

"I remember when gas prices were, like, a dollar," said Walnut Creek resident Ashley Johnson. "Now they're almost five dollars a gallon. That's way too expensive."

Prices statewide jumped more than five cents overnight and more than 15 cents in the last few days. And Blasky says the spike is not over yet.

"What I can say for sure is we should expect to be seeing higher prices at the pump for the next couple weeks at least," Blasky explained. "I would expect the state average to hit four dollars within the next, I would guess, week or so."

But he says California has become so accustomed to these spikes that four-dollar gas doesn't really deter drivers anymore. He believes the price will have to get to about $4.50 before drivers will begin cutting back their travels.

Domingo is feeling the pain right now.

"For us commuters it hurts. It hurts! I just need to get from point A to B!" she said.

AAA said just overnight, gas prices rose to levels we haven't seen since last May. And they say there's no telling how long prices will stay high.

It all depends on how quickly the refineries can get back to full production. Earlier this year, the same refinery in Benicia had a shut down that lasted 2 months.

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