Oakdale and Riverbank motorists are going to have to dig into their pocketbooks a bit deeper for a gallon of gasoline this season as prices are over 50 cents per gallon higher than they were last year at this time. For the first time in three years, the cost of a gallon of gas could reach the intimidating $4 mark, which is certain to modify most drivers’ habits after filling up at the pumps.
For the last week of February 2011, the national average for gasoline is $3.17 a gallon, and for diesel it’s $3.52, up 50 and 68 cents respectively from February 2010. The Oakdale and Riverbank average of $3.49 for gas is 52 cents more than a year ago, while diesel, at $3.79, is a hefty 74 cents higher.
On average, the U.S. uses over 400 million gallons of gasoline daily and demand for fuel has pushed gasoline prices to record highs. Stanislaus County pump prices often fluctuate considerably. In many areas, fuel prices can vary by 20 to 30 cents per gallon or more within the county. Because of the variance, officials said, motorists should shop around or use the Internet to find the best prices for fuel.
According to Gasbuddy.com, the lowest price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Oakdale was $3.39 a gallon at the ARCO Station at F Street and Maag Avenue. For Riverbank the lowest price for regular unleaded was also $3.39 at the ARCO located at the intersection of Oakdale and Patterson roads.
Turmoil in the Middle East can have an impact, and energy experts predict that costs will continue to rise as we move toward warmer weather.
For now, demand has leveled off and supplies are sufficient which usually doesn’t result in a price increase. Generally during this time of year prices drop before rising again during the summer months as people’s driving habits increase. Additionally, manufacturers claim the blend of summer fuel costs more to produce.
The sales tax rate also plays a part in the set cost for gasoline with the Oakdale-Riverbank average fuel price being lower than San Joaquin County or the Bay Area. Stanislaus County has one of the lowest sales tax at 8.35 percent compared to some counties’ 8.75 percent. In the Bay Area the sales tax is as high as 9.75 percent. For every gallon of fuel sold in California, the State also charges an 18-cent fuel excise tax.
The U.S. Energy Department last week forecast that the national average for gasoline will reach $3.24 a gallon this summer, and Stanislaus County prices usually are about 30 cents higher. The federal forecast is often on the conservative side, and the agency cautions that the national average could hit $3.50 a gallon with a 10 percent chance prices at the pump could reach $4 a gallon.
For drivers in the Valley, costly fill-ups at $4 a gallon may be an unwelcome summer fixture.