Gas Hike Hits California Hard
CYNTHIA L. WEBB
Apr. 02, 1999
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Angry Californians are digging deeper and deeper into their wallets to pay for a gallon of gasoline.
``I can't afford these prices when every dollar counts,'' complained Kristina Whelan, a 19-year-old Spanish literature student at the University of California, Los Angeles.
``It angers me,'' added Robert Sumber, 39, who was filling up a car Thursday instead of his gas-guzzling pickup truck. ``You need to drive here. What can you do?''
Californians are paying an average of $1.46 for a gallon of regular gas, up from $1.12 just a month ago, said Aileen Bohn, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Energy Information Administration. The nationwide average is $1.08 per gallon.
Prices across the country have jumped since the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, announced production cuts to boost sagging oil prices.
The nation's most populous state has been particularly hard hit. Fires at two California refineries cut into supplies, and a state decision to phase out an additive designed to make gas burn cleaner because of safety concerns could be costly.
Then there's a state levy of 18 cents per gallon added to a 7.25 percent sales tax, some of the highest fees in the nation. Motorists already pay 18.4 cents per gallon in federal taxes.
One California group is calling for government intervention. An Internet drive is pushing for a one-day boycott. And drivers are voicing their disgust.
``Some of the parents are expressing the anger because they are now having to decide, make a choice between purchasing gasoline and milk,'' said the Rev. Lowe Barry, a community activist. ``Gas is nearly $2 a gallon and milk is at least $3.50 a gallon.''
The anger has surfaced on the Internet, too. A chain e-mail was making the rounds of office computer terminals, calling on Californians not to buy gas April 30. ``Let's have a GAS OUT!'' it read.
The crisis is not limited to Los Angeles, where mass transit is largely a mirage.
Steve Asmann, owner of two Exxon stations in Pleasanton, a city of 60,000 in the eastern San Francisco Bay area, raised prices an average of 12 cents a gallon Wednesday. Premium was going for $1.99.9.
``I've ordered the number 2 for my signs,'' he said. ``I never thought I'd have to use them, but now I don't know.''
Six weeks ago, it was possible to find 99-cent gas in San Jose. With the hikes, some stations were selling gas for $1.61 a gallon.
``I think it will be a long time before we see 99-cent gas again,'' said Jerry Cummings, co-owner of a company that owns Rotten Robbie stations.