H-CENTRAL COAST

Mar 10, 2011 9:37 PM by Danielle Lerner

Gas prices on the Central Coast: the reasons behind those high numbers

Gas prices continue to climb and the Central Coast is taking a big hit. Prices now top $4.00 a gallon in some cities.

The latest numbers from AAA show the national average for unleaded gas is $3.52 a gallon. California's average is 40 cents higher at $3.92. Compare that with $3.97 a gallon in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.

"I can't take my grandkids anywhere, I save my gas for work and it's killing me, it really is, it's hard," said Debra Higgs, who lives in Lompoc.

"People were lined up at the gas stations to get gas in Arizona before they came into California and the prices jumped up," said Gordon Ricketts, who drove to San Luis Obispo from Ohio.

So why are prices so high here?

For starters, California has the highest gas taxes in the nation, and the Air Resources Board mandates we use a special type of gas that is cleaner burning.

"That type of gas costs more to produce and so refiners simply pass that cost on to motorists," said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com.

On the local level, DeHaan says prices tend to be higher in more affluent areas. Higher property taxes, land values and an overall increased cost of doing business also get passed along to the consumer. A lack of local competition and our proximity to Highway 101 do not help either.

"They know sometimes travelers aren't willing to shop around for gas," said DeHaan.

Still, the pain at the pump is not keeping all drivers from filling up.

"I don't like it but I don't like to stay home, so I guess I'll need to pay the price," said Barb Orrick, who lives in Los Osos.

A price, experts say, has not topped off just yet.

"I think it will be kind of a struggle to see California's average over $4.25 so we're getting close to the top if you consider close to the top another 30 cents," said DeHaan.

To find the cheapest gas in your area visit the Newslinks section of ksby.com and click on GasBuddy.

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