Andy Wright dropped the tailgate on his 1970 Chevy Silverado and leapt up.
“It’s going to be a minute,” he said. “Might as well get comfortable.”
As gas fumes wafted up from the oversized tank underneath the driver’s side wheel well, Wright – a “country boy” according to the sticker in his back window – has just pulled in to fill up his gas-guzzling pickup truck for the second time this week.
He has thought about getting rid of it but hasn’t been able to pull the trigger . Itt’s the first car that he bought with money that he earned working through high school, a considerable step up from the fickle station wagon that his parents gave him to get him back and forth to school.
But over the last two months the price of gasoline has skyrocketed – driving up more than $1.20-per-gallon in some places. At its lowest point it wasn’t really that much more expensive than the entire amount that it’s gone up.
“You’ve got the people who can just pull up and fill-up and drive away and not even have to look at the receipt. I’m not one of those people,” Wright said. “This hurts every single time and you know that with the drought and everything that they say is coming – the long, hot summer – that it’s going to get bad. The cost of everything is about to get more expensive and while I don’t know all of the particulars of how gas is priced, I’d bet my bank that I’m paying a lot more six months from now than I am today.
“Maybe by then I’m in a Prius.”
But California’s rising gas prices – up to $3.40-a-gallon according to GasBuddy.com – could either be leveling out or on the decline.
An explosion that ripped through an ExxonMobil plant in Torrence last month sent shockwaves through the industry and spiked prices and coupled with a United Steelworkers strike that affected refineries across the United States – including the Tesoro refinery in Martinez – it was motorists that paid at the pump.
Also, spring is traditionally the time of year that prices rise as refineries transition from winter blends of gasoline to cleaner burner summer blends that cost more money to produce and thus more money per gallon for the consumer. The process typically involves throttling back production which artificially raises prices on the interim.
A tentative agreement between the steelworkers and Shell Oil announced this week, however, gave new hope to industry insiders that production at domestic refineries will increase just in time for the summer driving season.
“I know that it’s more than people just sitting back and setting prices, but when you budget and that amount changes so quickly it’s hard to adjust,” Abby Dreiser said. “It becomes something that people talk about, especially this time of year. You know that it’s coming, but you don’t think about it until you’re standing right here.”