Cost of filling up keeps going down in the Bay Area

Bay Area gas prices may not feel like a bargain, but they have dropped to the lowest level in five months, experts say.

On Monday, the average price for regular unleaded gasoline in the greater San Francisco area was $3.08 per gallon, according to AAA of Northern California, a 54-cent drop from a May 7 peak of $3.62.

In Oakland, the average price dropped to $2.95, and in San Jose, it dipped to $2.94. Gas in both cities was $3.50 in early May.

Statewide, gas is now $2.88 — 27 cents less than on July 17.

“It’s a slow and steady downward trend,” AAA spokesman Sean Comey said. “We’re probably not to the point where consumers can cross high gas prices off their list of concerns, but it’s headed inthe right direction.”

Still, gas prices less than $3 per gallon at some stations were a welcome sight for many drivers.

In San Francisco, the cheapest gas could be found for $2.89 at RC Fuel at the corner of Market and Castro streets. Station owner DeeJay Joseph said independent gas stations like hers could typically offer lower rates than the chains.

“When you’re independent, you can wheel and deal and purchase from anyone you want,” she said.

For gas station owners, who typically buy their fuel supply every couple of days, the cost from wholesalers can go up or down depending on the hour.

“It’s almost like gambling. Every time I order fuel, I feel like I’m taking a risk. I could order and then the price could immediately go down 10 cents,” Joseph said.

At the Arco station at the corner of South Delaware Street and 19th Avenue in San Mateo on Monday, regular unleaded gas cost $2.87 per gallon — low enough to ease the pain at the pump for Jack Hontiveros.

“Any drop is welcome,” said Hontiveros, who goes out of his way to fill up at the station. “If I need gas and I’m somewhere else, I’ll just load a little, then drive here.”

Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst for Oil Price Information Service, said costs are falling nationwide due to increased production from oil refineries. In California, there is also reduced demand for gasoline as people are driving less.

While it’s difficult for experts to predict how long the trend will last, it remains to be seen whether it will affect drivers’ behavior.

David Clark, who drives 260 miles from San Francisco to Weaverville each month, said the drop in gas prices wouldn’t affect his travel plans.

“The only difference gas prices make is in my attitude,” he said.</p>

tbarak@examiner.com

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