Motorists are hitting the road early in California and Nevada this year, and the surge in gas consumption has caused prices to shoot up over the last month, according to AAA.
In South Lake Tahoe, AAA’s monthly gas price averages for March is $3.84. That’s 27 cents more than it was last month.
Similarly, the upward trend seems to be consistent throughout California and Nevada. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Northern California last week was $3.84 — 26 cents more than it was a month earlier. Nevada’s average price for regular gas last week was $3.50 per gallon, up 17 cents from Feb. 11.
The figures seem to be in line with what drivers in the nation have typically come to expect, which is gas prices rising in the spring, peaking in the summer and declining in the fall.
Consequently, higher prices have also been predicted over the next month due to the seasonal refinery maintenance and the required switchover to produce summer-blend gasoline, said AAA spokesperson Cynthia Harris.
“These factors coupled with unexpected market-moving events, such as unplanned domestic refinery maintenance or further escalation of geopolitical tensions with Russia, could cause prices to shoot up even higher,” Harris said in statement.
Crude oil prices are being affected by tensions in Ukraine, according to AAA. Pressure from the escalating situation pushed West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices to a more than six-month high March 3, but the prices dropped as the situation stabilized during the week.
On Friday, prices in South Lake Tahoe were already past $4 in some places. The Chevron and Shell on Lake Tahoe Boulevard had the highest price for regular unleaded gas: $4.03 per gallon. Safeway’s regular unleaded gas, also located on Lake Tahoe Boulevard, was the cheapest at $3.73 per gallon.
South Lake Tahoe resident Jesse Kinney was at the Chevron filling up on gas Friday. He tries to find the cheapest spots around town when buying gas, but it’s difficult because the prices fluctuate frequently.
“If you want the cheapest gas, you pretty much have to check them all,” he said. “It’s so random.”
Gas can be such a major expense for Kinney that it’s caused him to stay in town, rather than going to visit family and friends out of town.
“I try to stay local to save some money,” he said. “It’s expensive to travel.”
For the best mileage possible, AAA recommends performing regular vehicle maintenance, making sure fluids are clean, keeping tires at the proper pressure and taking care of engine belts and hoses.