Alaska oil woes affect Tahoe gas: Pipeline shutdown could have an impact on California drivers |

Alaska oil woes affect Tahoe gas: Pipeline shutdown could have an impact on California drivers

Amanda Fehd
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Gas prices are expected to rise.

The city with the most expensive gas in the country may have to pay even more per gallon after energy giant BP decided Monday to shut down a pipeline that supplies 20 percent of California’s crude oil.

In South Lake Tahoe, gas prices hovered around $3.29 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, 10 cents above the state average and 26 cents above the national average of $3.03. The city is often listed by AAA as having the most expensive gas in the country.

Tahoe Tom’s near the state line – typically the least expensive station in town – charged $3.19 on Monday. A multitasking clerk there said they can afford the lower price because “we don’t take too much profit from the customer.”

Duane Wallace, executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, said he hears a lot about South Shore’s gas prices. “That’s one of the questions I get the most from the public and businesses; they don’t understand why our prices are more expensive than other towns’,” he said.

Despite the prices, Tahoe is experiencing a strong August tourist turnout.

“My personal opinion is the heat in the Valley overrode the cost of gas,” Wallace said.

Oil industry watchers took a cautious stance Monday, saying it’s difficult to gauge the consequences of the move without knowing how long the Prudoe Bay pipeline will be closed.

“The important thing is we have a robust supply of crude oil in the short term,” said AAA’s California spokesman Sean Comey. The automobile association tracks gas prices as a service to its customers. “The (California) refineries are saying we have enough crude oil right now; it just depends on how long it stakes to fix the problem.”

Alaskan oil makes up 20 percent of California’s supply, and 8 percent of nationwide supply.

Prices jumped $2 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday.

Comey said several factors are contributing to a nationwide situation where supply is barely keeping pace with demand, including unrest in the Middle East.

“The system has to be operating at nearly full capacity to keep pace with this high of demand. (The pipeline shutting down) underscores how precarious the situation is in regard to supply,” he said.

Fast facts:

— Every $1 per barrel rise in crude oil prices results in 2.5 cents per gallon more at the pump

— California receives 20 percent of its supply from Alaska

— Nationwide, Alaska contributes 8 percent to total supply

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