Gas prices have stayed relatively flat in the past week. The average price for a gallon of gas in the Sacramento region is now $3.16. That's down from a week ago – but only by a penny – and it’s 45 cents above where it was a year ago. Last week, prices went up by eight cents.
"We could be facing the highest spring and summer gas prices since 2014,” says Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with the gas-price tracking firm GasBuddy.
DeHaan says that's because there's a lower global supply of crude oil and that has pushed prices up. The price of oil topped out at about $66 a barrel but fell under $60 a barrel last week, likely because of jitters as the Dow Jones average swung violently, and that's why prices at the pumps are down slightly from last week.
"I would still stick with that assumption that by the Memorial Day holiday we'll be staring at average prices that still could be 20 to 50 cents a gallon higher than where they are today," says DeHaan.
He says another reason for increasing prices is high Chinese demand.
"In fact, China is now rivaling the U.S., in terms of the amount of oil being imported,” says DeHaan. “Just 10 years ago, China was at half the amount of oil consumption that it is now. And so that is certainly putting pressure on oil prices as well."
He says California prices traditionally begin their seasonal rise in mid-February as refiners begin maintenance and start transitioning to more expensive summer gasoline as mandated by the state Air Resources Board. DeHaan says it's a multi-step process.
"Step one is transitioning to a slightly cleaner blend, and then step two increases until you get to step four which is summer gasoline. And that transition has started,” says DeHaan. “It's not full summer gasoline yet. But it is partially cleaner compared to some of the gasoline that we've used in the winter months."
GasBuddy says the average price for a gallon of gas in Stockton is currently $3.14, flat from last week. Modesto's $3.10 is up a penny.