Cheapest San Diego County gas is Pauma Valley and Oceanside

Oil companies blame Phillips 66 refinery in Carson and Valero’s in Wilmington

Today (April 16) prices on GasBuddy.com
  • Today (April 16) prices on GasBuddy.com

Just as reported in the Reader’s February 11 article, the expected raise in gas prices has found San Diego motorist’s paying an average of $4.04 a gallon (regular gas, cash price). That’s the highest price seen in San Diego since August of 2015.

On some recent days, motorists returning from work in the evening may have seen a 15 - 20 cent jump at their local station from the posted morning price. It’s the ninth straight week of raising prices.

As of April 16, the lowest-priced station in the county is located in rural Pauma Valley on Highway 76. The La Jolla Trading Post is on an Indian reservation, so doesn’t collect certain federal gas taxes, and is able to offer gas at $3.49.

Eight of the next nine lowest-priced stations are independents in Oceanside, each a few pennies apart, from $3.67 to $3.71, and still cheaper than Costcos around the county.

With $5-plus appearing on stations around the county for midgrade and premium gas, the SoCal oil industry is blaming prices on the unexpected maintenance shut-down of two large refineries; the Phillips 66 refinery in Carson, and Valero’s in Wilmington.

Not true, says Consumer Watchdog’s Jamie Court. “It’s the Golden State Gouge,” says Court. The organization has been tracking the seemingly late winter annual rise in prices since 2015. “Cost of production hasn’t gone up,” says Court.

The organization has shown, when California gas prices spike dramatically, oil company profits go way up the next quarter. “The oil companies have the market power, they all do it [profit from price increases].” So much so that Xavier Becerra, California’s Attorney General, has now requested to see the data from the organization.

Court says that a federal lawsuit, yet to be heard, has been filed by several San Diego area station owners, against their oil company suppliers, for selling branded gas to the branded dealers for 20 – 40 cents higher than selling the same gas to independent stations.

San Diego prices are expected to increase though Memorial Day weekend, but in a more stabilized manner. On April 16, for the first time in as many weeks, gasbuddy.com reported no average price increase overnight on the morning of April 16.

Some tips on gas buying;

• According to Court, 80 percent of California’s gas comes from four refineries owned by major oil companies. It’s mostly the same gas marketed under different brands, or sold to independent, cheaper-priced stations, therefore the cheapest gas is as good for your car as major branded stations.

• Chevron and Shell stations seem to price themselves as the highest branded stations in San Diego. The county’s highest is the Shell station in Coronado at $4.79.

• Prices at freeway locations are always much higher than stations a few miles away.

• The best days to fill up, according to gasbuddy.com, are Monday’s and Tuesday’s. Prices raise faster going into a weekend.

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It seems like every year or two there's some excuse for "short supply" and price hikes. This time it's the two refineries that are off line. It also seems as if the refiners and refineries take turns with these "unexpected" production cutbacks.

Is it still true that only those few California refineries produce the California summer blend fuel? That's always been an excuse for the high prices, and it seems to me that some other refinery in a neighboring state could start producing it, flood the market with it, and go far in keeping the price in line, while still profitable. But then that other refinery would be owned by Big Oil, and it suits Big Oil to have things as they are now. The state air resources regulators are, I believe, complicit with this price gouging, if for no other reason that it does keep gasoline consumption down, and hence, keep the air a bit cleaner.

Absolutely correct on all points, my friend.

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