Picturesque village

Gas hits nearly $10 a gallon in northern California town

A Chevron in the coastal village of Mendocino was charging $9.60 a gallon for Friday afternoon. That’s more than $3 a gallon above the state average of $6.25, according to AAA.

Judy Schlafer owns Schlafer’s Auto Body & Repair in Mendocino and said her last charge of 8,880 gallons of gas, which must be paid off in 10 days, cost about $50,000. Three months ago, she said she paid about $20,000 less for the same charge. Schlafer said if she didn’t charge $9.60, she would be out of business.

“I’m going to be lucky if I make the year with all the fees, regulations, payroll taxes,” she said. “If it continues like this, Mendocino will not have a gas station next year.”

Schlafer’s is the only station in the quaint town that’s popular with tourists, and it’s drawn a lot of attention for its high prices amid soaring gas prices across the country over the past year. The station is repeatedly called the most expensive gas in the country in the media.

Schlafer doesn’t believe it and says gasoline is just as expensive elsewhere.

SFGATE called some stations in remote areas such as Mono County and Big Sur and found nothing more expensive than Mendocino.

“It is without a doubt the most expensive gas in the country,” said Patrick De Haan, head of oil analysis at Gas Buddy.

The cost of crude oil determines prices at the pump. The supply is currently limited and that means high prices. Supply issues started during the COVID-19 pandemic when oil demand plummeted. Demand has rebounded quickly, but production and supply are struggling to keep up.

“Refining capacity has decreased due to COVID,” De Haan said. “We don’t have the capacity to refine as much fuel as the market consumes. The prices keep going up, it’s absolutely amazing how high the prices are right now.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine also impacted the price of crude oil as the United States and other countries imposed sanctions on Russia, cutting millions of barrels from global supply.

The average price of gasoline in California is $2 higher than it was a year ago. In the past week alone, the average price of gasoline in California has risen about 17 cents per gallon.

“Prices continue to rise,” De Haan said. “I don’t know when they will fall.”