The highest gas prices in the country are in these parts of California
Lynda Pemberton was filling up her Mazda pickup truck in the small Sierra Nevada town of Bridgeport, California when the woman at the next pump started swearing.
It cost $125 to fill up his SUV. Suffice to say that she was not happy.
With resignation, Pemberton shelled out a relatively merciful $87 to fill up his slightly trickier truck. This week, she said, the city’s two gas stations were selling regular unleaded for $7.39 and $7.35 a gallon.
“People don’t like it, but there’s not much we can do about it,” said Pemberton, owner of the Jolly Kone restaurant in Bridgeport. “We are far from another gas station.”
Americans everywhere are feeling pain at the pumps, with the average price of a gallon of gas topping $4 in all 50 states this month for the first time ever, according to the American Automobile Assn.
But nowhere are the prices more jaw-dropping than in rural California.
This week, California’s five counties with the most expensive fuel were all in its rural north: Mono, Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and Napa.
Mono, a county of 14,000 where Bridgeport is located, had the most expensive gas in the United States, according to the AAA. A gallon of regular gasoline costs an average of $7.04 on Wednesday, nearly a dollar more than the California state average of $6.07.
“We’re hoping to get some relief,” said Mono County Supervisor Bob Gardner, whose constituents routinely drive 60 to 120 miles to and from work, in part because of a major housing shortage. .
Gas prices, he said, “are on everyone’s mind. People think, ‘Damn, is this permanent?’ »
Even in a state as vast and seemingly built for driving as California, the rural north can feel wildly sprawling, with destinations — schools, workplaces, post offices, hospitals, supermarkets, home supply stores – often separated by distances that would cover several of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County.
These vast expanses are unpleasant not only for gas tanks, but also for wallets, with the prices of staples like milk and eggs being higher than in the more populated areas of California due to the cost of their truck transportation.
To cope, rural Californians have taken to rationing trips and carrying cans of gas to Oregon and Nevada, where prices are cheaper. Some have resorted to stealing gasoline from other people’s vehicles.
Pemberton said she usually fuels up in Bridgeport because she wants to support local businesses, but other residents drive at least 45 miles to Douglas County, Nevada, where the gas is this week about $1.70 cheaper per gallon.
California consistently has higher gasoline prices than the rest of the country due to a host of factors, including higher gasoline taxes and environmental laws requiring a unique blend of cleaner fuel that costs more. expensive to produce.
These come on top of factors that are now driving up prices everywhere else, including supply chain issues, inflation and the war in Ukraine, which has seen the international market sever its ties to the supply of oil from Russia.
In rural areas, there are even more issues at stake. It is more expensive for fuel distributors to deliver to remote locations. And there is less competition between service stations, which set their own prices.
Rural Californians live in some of the most economically challenged areas of the state. They generally drive farther than their urban counterparts and they have fewer choices for public transport – if they have access to it.
“When people are paying $6, $7, $8 a gallon for gas and trying to get to work, you quickly come to a point of diminishing returns,” said Dee Davis, president and founder of the Center for Rural Strategies. , based in Kentucky.
“The reality is that rural economies have been struggling for a long time,” forcing people to drive further to find work, he said. “Traditional industries like agriculture, logging and mining have come under intense pressure in a globalized economy…and when we have these unforeseen costs, it’s hard on everyone.”
Shelley Channel, owner of the Shell station in the Mono County hamlet of Lee Vining, said it had backed off from its own prices in recent weeks.
On Monday, his gas station was selling regular gasoline for $7.30 a gallon. Diesel was $7.55.
“I feel terrible,” Channel said. He has never charged so much in the more than 40 years that he has owned the gas station.
Channel, 77, said its prices were based not only on how much gasoline costs him to buy – which is more than ever before – but also on the location of Lee Vining. The small tourist town is a gateway to Yosemite National Park; when the east entrance to the park closes in the winter, business dries up.
Channel pays six full-time, year-round employees. Their salaries come almost entirely from what he earns during the warmer months.
“I set my profit margin at the start of each year, projecting what’s going to happen,” Channel said. “That doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is my cost. I had no idea it was going to be like this. It’s ridiculous.”
Every two weeks or so, Channel travels more than 100 miles north to Carson City, Nevada, to shop at Walmart or Costco. The trip in his Dodge diesel pickup now costs between $75 and $100.
In Humboldt County — where regular gasoline costs an average of $6.49 on Thursday — people are growing desperate, said Barbara McCovey, who lives on the remote Yurok reservation in the coastal woods along the Klamath River.
McCovey, 58, is a driver for United Indian Health Services who takes patients in a government vehicle to remote medical appointments.
“I just see people feeling very discouraged right now,” she said. “It’s gotten to the point where people say, ‘I can’t afford to go to work.’ Especially if you have a car that is not good on fuel economy.
Many tribal entities depend on annual federal grants, with strict budgets on how the money can be spent. She fears that the money has run out.
“You’re like, ‘Holy shit, where am I going to get the money to cover this gas?'” she said.
Her family recently installed solar lights in their yard to try to deter would-be gas thieves after hearing reports of people siphoning fuel from government vehicles, she said.
When her husband, a tribal fisherman, has to travel to Brookings, Oregon, more than 100 miles north, for work, he takes the family’s five six-gallon gas cans and fills them up.
McCovey drives a 2013 Chrysler Town & Country minivan when she’s not working. She was gassing up at Blue Lake recently, and the gas pump stopped when it reached $100, her limit for debit cards. His tank wasn’t even full.
Gasoline prices only add pain to price hikes on seemingly everything because of inflation, she said. Due to the remoteness of booking, prices were already very high even before the recent spikes.
“Everything here in Humboldt County has gone up in dollar or more stores,” she said. “It’s like they’re not just hitting us with fuel. It’s food. That’s all.
She drives to the Walmart Supercenter in Crescent City, 85 miles north, to do her shopping. The trip — which includes eight miles of unpaved roads and a stretch of Highway 101 called Last Chance Grade that crumbles into the sea — takes about five hours round trip. It cost him $65 for 10 gallons of gas to make the trip this week.
This week, she bought ice cream at Walmart for $1.97 a tub; at a store closer to her home, she said, it was $7. The deals, for now, are worth a look – unless petrol gets a whole lot more expensive.
In Trinity County, where gas averaged $6.33 a gallon on Thursday, Aubrey Prunty and her boyfriend, Anthony Rist, both 17, were forced to start doing something teenagers hate: leaving their vehicle at home.
They both normally drive gas-guzzling trucks. She has a blue 2002 Dodge Ram. He drives a 2000 Chevy Silverado that he got from his father.
Prunty started walking about half an hour to school in Weaverville this week and is fixing his dad’s old broken bike. Rist also rides a bike. And they hitchhike with their classmates for lunch off campus.
“I like driving my truck to school,” Rist said. “It’s convenient. … It kind of sucks to see my bank account drop very quickly because of these gas prices.
Prunty works at the local ice cream shop and saves money raising show animals. But that’s not enough when it costs $150 to fill her truck, she said.
It’s also a bit of a blow to the ego to have to keep your truck parked, she laughs.
“What kid doesn’t want to drive?” »