Gas prices on the North Coast can reach $8.63 a gallon

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Jeannie Ward was driving through the coastal town of Gualala, Mendocino County on Monday afternoon when she spotted a Chevron station advertising a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline for $5.80.

Most drivers would have been reluctant to spend so much on gas. Ward, however, still had 14 miles to go before heading to another gas station closer to home, which she learned charged $6 a gallon.

“I just knew I needed gas and it’s cheaper than Point Arena,” she said as she filled up her Kia Sedona at the Chevron station on Monday. Other drivers waited and watched as she did.

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine may be one of the main reasons gas prices are skyrocketing in the United States, but those who live in the more rural coastal areas of North Bay are paying significantly higher fuel prices compared to more urban areas of this region.

Prices peaked Monday at $6.39 a gallon at a Santa Rosa Chevron station on Mendocino Avenue, according to data from gasbuddy.com. But, along Highway 1 between Bodega Bay and Mendocino, prices were much closer to $7 a gallon.

On Monday, Gualala Chevron was the least expensive of the eight gas stations that span the 100-mile stretch of road. This does not include a Gualala 76 station that advertised $5.79 a gallon but was closed for repairs.

Given the sporadic number of gas stations along Highway 1, the higher prices at those gas stations are hardly surprising, said Christopher Thornberg, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at UC Riverside. School of Business.

The more competition there is and the more gas stations there are, the more similarity in prices you will see,” he said. “…The rule is that the further you are from other gas stations, the more you charge.”

Acknowledging they moved to the coast knowing that mainstream businesses such as a Walmart or even a McDonald’s would be in short supply, some residents said they hadn’t anticipated how high gas prices would get in times of crisis such as the ongoing war in the East. Europe.

Located between the wilderness and the Pacific Ocean, Route 1 offers so few fuel options that motorists say they have no choice but to rely on the nearest gas stations, regardless of prices practice.

Still, any suggestion that might help them search for cheaper options falls on deaf ears, as it would require them to travel long distances and burn fuel in the process.

Some North Shore residents acknowledged that better options exist, particularly in Fort Bragg where gas prices were as low as $5.25 a gallon, according to gasbuddy.com.

Gualala resident Leo Anderson, who pumped gas at Chevron on Monday, said Fort Bragg prices have caught on in his community. But, he lamented that Fort Bragg was 58 miles away and driving there would defeat the purpose of saving fuel.

“Is it better to accept the prices we have in our backyard? May be. But, maybe I’ll end up (in Fort Bragg) if I get frustrated here,” Anderson said as he stood beside his Ford Fusion.

Gas station owners face a conundrum: charge prices high enough to pay for the costs of doing business, or keep their prices low enough to maintain their limited number of customers.

“We want to give them the right price so they don’t go downtown,” said Josh Rice, manager of the Fort Ross store, located along an isolated stretch of Highway 1. He advertised fuel at $5.99 a gallon Monday.

Its nearest competitor, Jenner Sea Store, is 13 miles to the south and it was also selling gasoline Monday at $5.99 a gallon. It sits on a busier stretch of Highway 1, but owner Larry Sandhu estimated activity was down about 25% as fewer people drive and most customers only buy a few gallons. gasoline at a time.

Sandhu said he used to adjust prices on a monthly basis – and by pennies. But recent circumstances have forced him to change prices every week and he is reluctant to raise them further unless absolutely necessary.

“It hurts consumers and our business,” he said.

About 87 miles north of Jenner, at Schlafer’s Auto Body & Repair in the town of Mendocino, gas prices Monday were $8.63 a gallon.

The cost has shone a spotlight on the local business, which appears to operate primarily as an auto repair shop selling fuel.

Owner Judy Schlafer said she was vilified in the national media over the cost of gas at her store. His station was the subject of a joke by the “Real Time with Bill Maher” host, during his March 11 show.

She pointed out that her prices reflect the cost of what she pays for her supply. She would be happy to lower her prices if she could.

“I try to be fair and it’s just too bad I’m not franchised and don’t have a convenience store,” Schlafer said.

His company was described as having the highest price for a gallon of gasoline in the country, but Schlafer said that was not the case.

Thornberg, the UC Riverside expert, agreed that it’s not out of the question for drivers to find more expensive gas in even more obscure places.

Schlafer said fuel is more expensive at a gas station 25 miles north of his in the coastal town of Westport. And, Thornberg said prices may have topped $8 a gallon at a gas station on or near Highway 1 in Big Sur.

Both sites were described as small local operations in remote rural areas. Neither is included in gasbuddy.com fuel data and their exact prices could not be confirmed.

Either way, Thornberg agreed that gas prices are the culmination of multiple factors. But the final decision on how much to charge consumers rests with the owner of a gas station.

“People have to understand that the gas station has choices,” Thornberg said.

You can contact editor Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi

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