Gas breaks $4 per gallon on South End

Bill Tulloch watches the meter tick toward $100 as he fills the Good Cheer delivery truck on Tuesday.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Bill Tulloch watches the meter tick toward $100 as he fills the Good Cheer delivery truck on Tuesday.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Residents on South Whidbey were disappointed but begrudgingly dug deep as gas prices broke $4 per gallon this week.

Fuel prices on South Whidbey were well above the state average Tuesday. The average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.87, according to the AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That was a 22-cent increase from the statewide average from just a week earlier, and 40 cents higher than a year ago.

Such a spike will affect the way at least a few commuters on the South End get around.

On Tuesday, gas at the Valero on Highway 525 and Langley Road cost $4.05 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

Bill Tulloch, a driver for Good Cheer Food Bank, watched as the price gauge on the pump ticked ever higher while filling the delivery truck. He stopped at $109.

“I understand there’s a refinery down, this and that,” Tulloch said.

“It affects everything. It certainly makes it more difficult to get around. You don’t want to drive very far.”

Tulloch said he drives about 70 miles each day for work, and expects the fuel costs will take a toll on the nonprofit’s budget.

“I don’t know how to cure it,” Tulloch said.

Down toward the Clinton Ferry Terminal, gas costs were highest at the Chevron station. Regular unleaded cost $4.09 a gallon Tuesday morning, with premium unleaded at $4.29.

Higher costs and proximity to his home led Don Rodriques to use the Valero station in Langley.

Rodriques, a Langley resident, filled up the tank in his small pickup truck and was full of questions about why prices were so high.

“There’s no rhyme or reason,” he said. “It probably has to do with the refineries. It seems like it’s an excuse to raise prices.”

Gas prices last peaked near the $4 mark for regular on South Whidbey in September 2011. Prices also went above $4 in June 2011, and the previous high above $4 was in summer 2008.

This latest surge above $4-a-gallon gasoline has been attributed to the West’s unrest with Iran over nuclear armament, and concerns about Europe’s economy and debt crises. Foreign fuel dependency led Rodriques to suggest seeking a different source of oil, one closer to the shores of North America.

“That’s why it’s important to be more self-sufficient,” he said. “If we have reserves, then we need to tap into them.”

“When you’re getting your oil from Iran or Iraq, that’s not a good place to be.”

There’s no single reason why gas prices have risen here, said Cassie Devaney, spokeswoman for AAA Washington.

“There are two stories. Gas prices right now are being affected for different reasons at the national level and the state level,” she said.

The price of gas at the pump continues to rise at U.S. gas stations that get fuel from refineries on the West Coast, because the crude oil that is being refined there is currently the most expensive oil on the U.S. market.

In general, the continuing geopolitical tensions with Iran are a factor. Any threat of disruption to the supply of oil will make prices in the crude oil market rise, she said.

There’s also continued hope that the international economy is getting stronger.

“If that happens, the expectation would be that the global market for crude oil will grow,” Devaney said.

In Washington, another important factor is the Feb. 17 fire at BP’s Cherry Point Refinery.

“That has caused some shorter term supply disruptions, which has caused the price of gasoline in Washington state to go up,” she said.

Unfortunately for many, gas prices aren’t expected to crest soon. Devaney said gas prices are expected to continue to rise through the spring.

Across metro areas in Washington, the highest average price Tuesday was reported in Bellingham, where a gallon of regular gas was $4.03.

In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area, the average price Tuesday was $3.97, an increase of 23 cents from the week before. The average price of a gallon of regular a year ago was $3.54 in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area.

Only six states currently have higher gas prices than Washington, according to the AAA; Oregon, New York, Connecticut, California, Alaska and Hawaii. Hawaii has the highest average price for a gallon of regular, at $4.31, followed by California, at $4.30.

Record writer Brian Kelly contributed to this story.

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