The owner of Yellow Cab in Tracy winced even more as the pump numbers spun higher and higher at a rate of $4.69 a gallon.
His 2008 Dodge Caravan topped off at about $80, after prices for a regular gallon of gas have skyrocketed nearly 60 cents since Oct. 1 to
an average of $4.57 on Wednesday in the Tracy area and $4.64 in the state, according to GasBuddy.com.
The national average has held relatively steady during the same time at about $3.80 a gallon. On Thursday, Oct. 11, Tracy-area stations averaged $4.55 a gallon for regular gas, while the state hovered just above $4.65, GasBuddy.com states.
“My drivers and I, we are crying for our wallets when we have to fill up,” said Akbari, who employs 65 drivers from the East Bay to Modesto. “Everybody is hurting, because it caught us by surprise, because it’s like it happened overnight.”
Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, said Thursday that a “perfect storm” of events caused gas prices to spike in California but remain stable in other parts of the country.
On Oct. 1, states typically switch gas supplies from a summer blend to a winter blend, as manufacturers produce gas according to the season. California refineries take that summer blend and further refine it to meet the state-specific standard.
Diminished supply because of the changeover, combined with the recent shutdown of three refineries in California and a major pipeline from Kern County to Northern California, caused wholesalers, retailers and customers alike to pay higher prices.
“California is the only state in the country that has refineries that produce the special blend of gas that the state laws require,” Laskoski said. “When you have these refineries shut down their operation and the infrastructure to move the product is stressed, that’s going to affect prices. Wholesale prices, needless to say, went through the roof.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote a letter Monday, Oct. 8, to U.S. Attorney General Eric Handler requesting that the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group investigate the price surge in the state and determine whether “traders colluded to manipulate and drive up gas prices.”
Boxer went on to write that “Californians have too often been victimized as unscrupulous traders have created or taken advantage of supply disruptions to drive up energy costs.”
“We cannot allow market manipulation by those who would seek to profit off the pain of our families at the pump,” she wrote.
Laskoski said the state has already begun to mix the winter blend to alleviate pressure at the pump, and he expects gas prices in the state to “moderate downward over the next week,” but he said that won’t happen until retailers get returns on their current stock.
On Thursday, Tracy-area stations averaged $4.55 for a gallon of regular gas, while the state average hovered just above $4.65 and the national trend ran near $3.80 a gallon, GasBuddy.com states.
“They bought this gas a week ago at a higher price, so they’re going to sell it at that rate,” Laskoski said. “There is going to be some lag time, but it should get better soon.”
That’s good news for gas guzzlers such as Akbari and his taxi drivers.
He is providing some relief to his drivers by splitting gas costs, but he said the move makes him operate at a loss.
Drivers can average $50 to $100 a night depending on the day of the week and call volume.
Samey Rahgozar, a driver for Yellow Cab, said the gas assistance helps, but it’s still difficult to make ends meet.
Four hours into a 12-hour shift Wednesday, he had earned only $15 on two fares.
“I have to split that with gas, insurance, my other costs, so there is a big hole,” Rahgozar said. “Sometimes you make a little, but it’s hard, because it’s short trips.”
Rahgozar has adjusted his tactics and now stays in one spot until he gets a call. But that eliminates flag-downs by patrons and more potential revenue.
“I hope it gets better soon,” he said.
“(The price) needs to go as low as it can.”
Ten tips for fuel efficiency
1. Avoid high speeds
As speed increases, aerodynamic drag increases. Driving 62 mph as opposed to 75 mph will reduce fuel consumption by about 15 percent.
2. Do not accelerate or brake hard
Anticipating the traffic and applying slow, steady
acceleration and braking, may increase fuel economy by as much as 20 percent.
3. Keep tires properly inflated
Keep tire air pressure at the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. A single tire underinflated by 2 pounds per square inch increases fuel consumption by 1 percent.
4. Use air conditioning sparingly
When the air conditioner is on, it puts an extra load
on the engine and forces about 20 percent more fuel consumption.
5. Keep windows closed
Windows open, especially at highway speeds, increase drag and result in decreased fuel economy of up to 10 percent.
6. Service vehicle regularly
Proper maintenance avoids poor fuel economy related to dirty air filters, old spark plugs or low fluid levels.
7. Use cruise control
Maintaining a constant speed over long distances often saves gas.
8. Avoid heavy loads
Remove any sand bags used to gain extra traction during winter from the trunk in the spring, and pack lightly for long trips.
9. Avoid long idles
If you anticipate being stopped for more than a minute, shut off the car. Restarting the car uses less fuel than letting it idle for this time.
10. Purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle
When buying a new vehicle, examine its rated fuel efficiency. Usually, choosing a small vehicle with a manual transmission will provide better relative fuel economy.