SAN DIEGO — The average price of regular unleaded gas in San Diego County is slightly rising, now averaging at about $5.39 a gallon, forcing a reverse in the lowering price trend consumers have seen over the past few weeks. Prices, however, are now more than 98 cents less than the record $6.37 set in June. 

According to AAA, the average price in the county is now about four cents higher than it stood a week ago and eight cents higher than a month ago. The reason behind this is due to both planned and unplanned maintenance to local refineries. 

If you factor in this year’s already sky-high gas prices due to the war in Ukraine and inflation, local refineries were forced to delay doing any maintenance until last week. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, gasoline inventories in the western states have declined for eight straight weeks and are at the lowest level seen in a decade. This is why prices are trending higher in California compared to other states. 

AAA Corporate Communications Manager Doug Shupe calls California a “fuel island,” referencing the lack of gas pipelines running directly to Southern California. The region gets product from what is produced locally by refineries or from imports mostly from Asia.

“Typically, when our refineries are undergoing some kind of maintenance whether it be planned or unplanned, it takes two to three weeks from those imports to arrive from foreign sources and so that’s why we tend to see the prices spike when our refineries are undergoing some maintenance issues,” Shupe said. 

To compensate for the rising prices, San Diegans are changing spending habits, sticking to budgets and cutting back. For Adrienne Tabor, who was filling up her tank at the Tierrasanta Town Center gas station, her best method of defense is budgeting.

“You know I’ve got to stick to my budget. Sometimes there are some weeks that I’m willing to cut corners to fill my tank up if I have a few more places to go for that week, but the usual weekly budget is not sufficient for these high gas prices,” said Tabor. 

Even hybrid drivers like Nam Le, whose daily drive averages about 50 miles a day, are also feeling the pinch.

“Definitely still feeling it. I do a fair amount of driving. This car can do about 30 miles on an electric charge,” said Le. 

Associate Professor of Economics with the University of San Diego, Alan Gin, brought some perspective to the issue. He explained that for every cent increase to a gallon of gas, comes a million-dollar impact to the local economy.

“If it goes up a cent that means that consumers are spending an extra million dollars a month on gasoline when they could’ve been spending it on going out to eat, buying clothes or something like that.” 

As Thursday kicks off the first day of fall, a AAA study suggests 73% of Americans plan to travel during the autumn months. Fortunately, prices at the pump will drop toward the end of October once the market can start selling the winter blend fuel which is made of less expensive components like butane. 

“Revenge travel is certainly a thing. People want to travel and see the world again. And now with temperatures cooling off people really do want to get out there and see the fall foliage, find those cooler spots whether it be in the mountains and spend that quality time with their friends and their family,” said Shupe.