Prices for the Chevron on Hollister and Storke Road at $5.98 per gallon on April 16 | Credit: Josephine Trilling

Gasoline prices in Santa Barbara County have risen 11.9 cents per gallon in the last week, according to a survey of 56 stations in the area by GasBuddy. The stations average $5.17 per gallon, an increase that reflects an overall surge in prices throughout California, home to some of the highest costs in the country.

California’s average this year is $1.77 more than the national average, but GasBuddy reports that after weeks of climbing, costs are continuing to rise. The Chevron station on Hollister and Storke Road is at $5.99 per gallon, and the ExxonMobil on Glen Annie and Calle Real is as high as $6 per gallon.

As of right now, the 76 gas station on Hollister and Kinman Avenue is one of the lowest-priced stations in the South Coast area at $4.90 per gallon, with Turnpike Fuel Depot at the intersection of Calle Real and North Turnpike not far behind at $4.94.

The Chevron and ExxonMobil stations in Goleta have long been high-priced outliers, but the owners did not respond to messages inquiring about why their prices are a dollar higher than other area stations on average.

According to the California Energy Commission, the difference between California’s gas price and the national average is partly due to its use of a cleaner reformulated gasoline (RFG), a special blend that is better for the environment that California requires. Another reason is that only 11 oil refineries across the state make this special blend, which creates a vulnerable link in the supply chain.

Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis at Gas Buddy, said that the price climb in spring can be partially attributed to the fact that California is somewhat cut off from the rest of the country when it comes to trade.

“The geography is such that there are few pipelines that connect the West Coast to the rest of the country, making California a bit of a petrol island,” said De Haan. “With a declining number of refineries due to regulation, politicians have not made it easy for them to continue operating.”

Limited refineries make the unique RFG blend even scarcer, according to De Haan, who said that consumers tend to face shortages over spring break and Easter especially. “The bottom line is that demand is going up, while supply is not necessarily able to meet it immediately.”

On average, California has the highest state gas tax in the nation of 77.9 cents per gallon. According to the Tax Foundation, California uses these taxes to maintain roads and limit congestion.

With even the cheapest stations in Santa Barbara around $4.69 per gallon, Santa Barbarans face prices that break the bank, with no likelihood that prices increases will slow down in the next couple of sunny weeks.

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