Minnesota refinery fire’s reach extends to Bay Area

Redwood City resident Leonardo Enciso may be 2,000 miles away from Wednesday night’s refinery fire in Minnesota, but he worries it might be close enough to hit him in the wallet.

It takes $60 to fill up the tank of Enciso’s Toyota 4Runner, and if gas prices rise further, the 19-year-old college student will be walking a lot more.

“It’s a big issue,” he said as he fueled up at $3.53 a gallon at a Redwood City Shell station.

With crude oil prices already soaring at more than $90 a barrel for the last several weeks, a fire at a major northern Minnesota refinery that killed three workers caused oil prices to jump to an overnight high of $95.17 a barrel. By Thursday, they had almost retreated back to their previous levels.

While the full effects may not be known for several weeks, a rise in Bay Area gas prices will likely be minimal, said Denton Cinquegrana, oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service.

“If it does have an impact, it’s going to have an impact on people in the Midwest, as that pipeline brings Canadian crude oil to the Chicago area,” he said.

But even a small increase in crude oil prices could make Bay Area gas prices a record-breaker.

On Thursday, the average gas price in San Francisco was $3.56 per gallon, down from a record high of $3.67 on May 11. In Oakland, gas was $3.47, closing in on a May 10 high of $3.51. The average gas price in San Jose was $3.47, down from a May 8 peak of $3.50, according to the Oil Price Information Service.

Cinquegrana said gas prices are typically higher in California than other states because of taxes.

“You have taxes in California that are in the top five in the country,” he said. “About 50 cents of every gallon of gas is taxes.”

California also relies on its own production more than other states, he said, and the demand is greater.

Gas prices in 2007

San Francisco

» Current: $3.56

» One month ago: $3.32

» One year ago: $2.59

» Highest recorded: $3.62 (May 11)

San Jose

» Current: $3.47

» One month ago: $3.22

» One year ago: $2.48

» Highest recorded: $3.50 (May 8)

Oakland

» Current: $3.47

» One month ago: $3.21

» One year ago: $2.50

» Highest recorded: $3.51 (May 10)

California

» Current: $3.41

» One month ago: $3.19

» One year ago: $2.50

» Highest recorded: $3.49 (May 9)

U.S.

» Current: $3.09

» One month ago: $2.87

» One year ago: $2.24

» Highest recorded: $3.22 (May 24)

Source: Oil Price Information Service (All prices reflect regular unleaded fuel)

tbarak@examiner.com


For more information on gas prices and it's history, check out Gas Prices
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