Gasoline prices in the Mother Lode and the rest of California have seen a recent spike. And while the news isn’t necessarily good for local drivers, representatives with local tourism say it will likely take more than the recent trend to drive away business.
Gas prices throughout Tuolumne and Calaveras counties are hovering around the $4 per gallon mark. Amy Alonzo Rozak/Union Democrat, copyright 2012
According to fuel price statistics provided by AAA, the statewide average for a gallon of regular gasoline on Monday was about $4.08 — up 23 cents from a week ago and 38 cents from a month ago.
AAA fuel statistics show the Modesto metropolitan area was below the state average at $4.01, up 3 cents from Sunday. The average price for the same area was $3.75 a week ago and $3.62 a month ago, according to AAA figures.
While AAA does not have specific numbers for Tuolumne or Calaveras counties, gas prices at multiple stations in the Sonora area ranged from $3.89 to $4.15 per gallon in Sonora Monday morning.
Experts say there are multiple reasons for the statewide jump. A fire last week at a large oil refinery in Richmond reduced capacity at the facility that produces at least 15 percent of the state’s fuel, according to the Associated Press.
That’s a big deal in this state, which requires a special blend of cleaner gasoline making it difficult to replace that lost supply.
“What we are seeing is it has sort of stabilized” between Sunday and Monday, said AAA Northern California Spokeswoman Cynthia Harris, who added it would be difficult to speculate whether prices will continue to increase sharply.
“We’re in a wait and see mode,” she said.
The Associated Press also reported on Monday that the high price of crude oil has contributed to the current gas market.
Harris said instability in Iran also contributes.
While the recent trend is likely tightening some drivers’ wallets, Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Nanci Sikes said on Monday that it’s not likely reached a point to keep visitors from driving to the Mother Lode.
Sikes said that historically, around $5 a gallon has been the “tipping point” where local businesses will see fewer cars coming up the hill.
This weekend, local hotels were generally full and roadside stores reported robust numbers, she said.
“I haven’t seen any indications yet that there’s been any pullback from our domestic visitors,” Sikes said.
“It’s really more of a long-term thing” that would keep tourists at home, she later said. “They’re not going to give up their vacation for a few cents a gallon.”
In Calaveras County, Visitors Bureau Director Lisa Boulton said during her tenure with Cave and Mine Adventures, bumps in gas prices actually often led to bumps in business.
Boulton, who started with the Calaveras Visitors Bureau last month, said people in the Central Valley who would normally go “further afield” would find themselves taking the shorter day trips for recreation.
“In general … we did well as the prices went up,” she said.
Analysts have said it could take weeks before the refinery is back to normal. But Harris said drivers should “not panic” with Labor Day on the horizon as prices look to be stabilizing and will likely decline after the unofficial end of summer holiday.
At Glory Hole Sports in Angels Camp, which sells gas, supplies and fishing tackle largely to boaters and visitors at New Melones Reservoir, owner Melanie Lewis said she doesn’t really notice a drop in business when gas prices go up.
While the extra cents per gallon might keep someone from buying some extra food or items at the store with the gas, Lewis said people are still filling up.
“Everybody complains about it, but I don’t know really if it keeps people from driving,” she said.