Local News

Jan 8, 2010 9:28 PM by Ariel Wesler

Winter gas prices unseasonably high

Winter can spell relief from high gas prices following the holiday travel season, but not this year.

In San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, the average price for a gallon of regular gas is about $3.10. That's up nearly 15 cents from one month ago. Experts say mother nature and the economy are partly to blame.

It's really winter storms and surprisingly an economic rally from the oil industry that's pushing the increase. Higher gas prices are really no surprise to many people anymore, but they just want to know when it's gonna end.

It's a sign of the times.

"I don't know how people afford new cars anymore, the bigger cars," said Paul Dagmenica of Santa Maria.

Tina Christen of Lompoc commutes to Santa Maria daily and tries to amuse herself to ease the pain at the pump.

"Put your card in and see how long it takes to fill it up and how high it's gone up in price. That's pretty much what I've turned it into. What can I get done while it's filling up?" Christen said.

Gas prices in the central coast counties are up 56 percent from just a year ago when drivers were paying around two dollars a gallon.

"Work and back and that's about it. We don't go anywhere anymore," said James Castleberry of Santa Maria.

While we've enjoyed the sunshine, the winter storms pounding the midwest and northeast are fueling the demand for heating oil.

On top of that, optimism about the economy helped the oil market rally, driving the price of crude oil back above $80 a barrel.

"Life is still happening you know, we're still having to go to meetings and you still have to drive to get there, so you have to pay the price. . .if you start filling up from one place and you look across the street and it's a few pennies cheaper, you're like, ugh, I should have gone there," Christen said.

And these days, every penny counts.

Some good news. Experts say relief is in sight and don't expect prices to climb much higher.

Our state average has stayed within 10 cents of the $3 mark since the beginning of October.

We're still a long ways off from those record-high prices we saw here on the Central Coast in June of 2008. AAA says back then we were paying about $4.70 a gallon.

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