Gasoline prices climb as Valley weather warms

Raul Bucio, of Merced, fills up at a Valero station in Merced Tuesday. (4-8-14 )
Raul Bucio, of Merced, fills up at a Valero station in Merced Tuesday. (4-8-14 ) bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com

As temperatures rise in the Valley, the cost of gas is on the upswing.

The average pump price in California is 14 cents higher than a month ago, AAA Northern California announced Tuesday. In Merced, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $4.01, about 17 cents higher than the average price in March.

Merced’s gas prices rank lower than the state average of $4.05. Compared with one year ago, today’s average is 6 cents higher.

The national average is also seeing an increase, with the highest price recorded in nearly six months at $3.59 per gallon.

“There is a reason why we typically see gas prices rise as the weather becomes warmer. Each spring, refiners must start producing their summer-blend gasoline by May 1, and that process is well underway,” said Bob Brown, AAA Northern California spokesman. “Additional additives are put into the gasoline to make it burn properly, so that it will meet clean-air standards. The cost of those additives is passed on to the consumer.”

Seasonal refinery maintenance has also had an impact on prices.

According to AAA Northern California, some relief for drivers is expected after Libyan rebels agreed to reopen two oil ports. After being closed for eight months, the two ports will return a combined 180,000 barrels per day of crude oil to the global market. The announcement will start to put downward pressure on oil prices.

Merced resident Elizabeth Whitmyre said higher gas prices forces her to pay closer attention to her driving habits.

“It’s hard. That’s why I bought a smaller car, so that I can get better gas mileage,” Whitmyre said.

To get the best mileage possible, AAA recommends keeping tires at the proper pressure, performing routine maintenance, making sure fluids are clean, and keeping belts and hoses in good repair.