Gas prices in Berkeley climb over $4.00 a gallon

The cost of gas at Bridgeway Service was $3.94 at 8:30 am on Wednesday, and up to $4.02 a gallon by 10 am. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The price of gasoline in Berkeley has gone up more than 14 cents a gallon to more than $4.00 in the last few days, and experts believe it may climb to more than $4.15 a gallon in the coming weeks.

The Aug. 6 fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond immediately created a scarcity of gas in California, which was reflected at the pumps the very next day.

Steve Carvalho, whose family has operated Bridgeway Service on the corner of Ashby and Claremont Avenues for 37 years, said he has seen four price surges over the past few days.

When Carvalho got to his station Tuesday morning at 5:30 am, immediately after the Chevron fire, his wholesaler notified him that gas prices had gone up. He got notification of another price increase at 9 am and then another at 1 pm.

On Wednesday morning the price increased a few more cents. Carvalho was selling regular gas for $3.90 a gallon on Sunday; it was $4.02 for a gallon of regular at 10 am on Wednesday.

“California only has one type of gas,” said Carvalho, who runs an independent station and sells gas under the Coast label. “It’s only manufactured here. We can’t borrow it from any other state, so we’re short of fuel.”

Steve Carvahlo, whose family has operated Bridgeway Service for 66 years, the last 37 at the intersection of Ashby and Claremont, has seen gas prices go up four times since the Aug. 6. fire at the Chevron refinery. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

In addition to the Chevron fire, local production had been down anyway since another refinery, Tesoro, was doing some maintenance, he said.

But the price increase has not hit Berkeley gas stations uniformly. Just a block away from Bridgeway, on Ashby and Domingo, a Chevron station was selling regular gas for $4.04. The Shell station on Oxford and Durant was selling gas for $3.99, as was Valero on Martin Luther King and University Avenue. The Shell station on Bonar and University, in contrast, was selling regular for $3.79.

Carvalho, whose family has been running a gas and service station for 66 years, said while there is scarcity, he believes prices are artificially manipulated by traders.

“Oh, they think. We’re going to be short in a couple of weeks. Let’s raise the price today.  It’s a volatile market.”

He said his wholesale price for gas has increased 29 cents in recent weeks.

Other experts are predicting that gas prices could jump as much as 35 cents a gallon.

“It could get very ugly, very fast,” Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for the price-watch websites run by, told the Los Angeles Times.

The Chevron refinery in Richmond is California’s third largest refinery and it processes about 243,000 barrels of oil into gasoline every day. It is one of 14 refineries in the state equipped to make the special blend of lower-polluting gas required by California law, according to the Times. The Aug. 6 fire damaged one unit, and the refinery is only making a small portion of the gasoline it usually produces.

“I happen to be in a neighborhood where some people don’t even blink at the cost of gas,” said Carvalho. “But you have young people driving to work from Modesto or Hayward or elsewhere. They feel it.”

Chevron fire out; investigation begins [08.07.12]
Chevron officials want East Bay residents to stay indoors [08.06.12]

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  • John Holland

    I have a hard time with people who complain about oil prices but then refuse to seek an alternative. That’s the definition of insanity.

  • Guest

    It did not immediately create a scarcity. It immediately created an excuse to jack up prices.

  • bgal4

    Yo Holland, 
    did you see the latest shooting at a pot grow

  • Anonymous

    Obviously they wanted the dope in order to make hemp fuel for poor people.

  • anon

    time to walk or bike instead of go to the gas station

  • Iceland_1622

    See if they have jerked up the price of CNG in Berkeley yet or if it will be fairly static as I hope it will.  I am attempting to transition to this fuel if only as a temporary automotive source as it’s cleaner and safer and yes cheaper.  Most coal fired electrical power plants in the USA are very quickly transitioning to this fuel source as per it’s price and availability.  

  • anonymous

    Don’t forget public transportation! Of course, there is also the option of electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF. Better yet, try to install solar panels to generate the power for their EV!

  • serkes

    Climb TO MORE than $4.00/gallon.


  • Frances Dinkelspiel

     You are right Ira, of course, but we have this little quirk: we don’t like our headlines going longer than one line. Over is shorter than More than

  • serkes

    Climb above? … though changing the title plays havoc with the permalink.

  • TizziLish

    rise to $4.00+ ?

  • Jacob Lynn

    New knowledge about future supply is a perfectly valid reason for new prices.

  • serkes

    Jacob – that analogous to price fluctuations in a commodities market, isn’t it.  The supply doesn’t substantially change during the day but the price can.

  • The Sharkey

    It’s interesting how gas prices jump immediately whenever oil prices go up or there’s a production problem like this, but they almost never seem to drop significantly to reflect oil prices when they fall, or as a result of record profits.

    One would think that in a truly competitive Capitalist system at least one of the big producers would be shaving a little off those record profits to try to undercut their competitors on price.

  • Bill N

    Glad I filled up yesterday at $3.80 something.  It’s OK folks, it’s a Prius.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Here is a historical chart of gas prices from the US Dept of Energy, and you can see that (after adjusting for inflation):
    — prices went way up in the 1970s because of shortages
    — prices fell throughout the 1980s and 1990s, because new sources came on line, ending shortages.
    — prices started going up again toward the end of the 1990s, because new demand from developing nations were pushing against the limits of supply once again.

    The long-term fluctuations are pretty much what I would expect from a market responding to supply and demand, though they were driven up artificially by the OPEC embargo of the 1970s.

  • The Sharkey

    I’m referring more to short-term pricing. But I suppose the falling value of the dollar has made it look like gas prices have risen more than they actually have.

    Still, odd that nobody’s cutting into those record profits to try to compete on price.

  • How does hemp fuel manage to stay out of the news?  Instead of protesting a stupid convention, the die hard activists looking for adventure should protest for hemp fuel.

  •  With a 20 year pay back period on solar cells, hemp fuel is a much better alternative to solar cells.

  •  I don’t see what is safe with a compressed bomb sitting in your car.  Hemp fuel would be better.