Get ready to pay even more at the gas pump 

Experts say politics as well as a recent refinery fire in Texas are playing a role in recent oil price hikes — and San Franciscans should be prepared to pony up at the pump.

Weighing in at $60.95 a barrel Thursday, crude oil prices are the highest they’ve been since December. According to Sean Comey, spokesman for the American Automobile Association in Northern California, the price was still in the low-$50 range in January.

In the last three months, San Franciscans have seen a spike in gasoline prices — the average price per gallon for regular unleaded fuel was $2.62 in December, increased to $2.71 in January and is now $2.92.

Khalid Aziz, professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University, said three primary factors contribute to the price of oil — supply, demand and politics.

"Politics are controlling the price [now], such as the situation in Iran. The threat of a U.S. strike on Iran is creating fear in the market. Other than that, nothing has changed. Short-term spikes in price are political. Long term, the price will keep edging upwards unless we can replace oil with other sources of energyto keep the price down," Aziz said.

Comey also said a Feb. 16 fire at a Valero oil refinery near Dumas, Texas, is also affecting the price of oil for Californians.

"The problem with the refinery is that even though it doesn’t supply us with fuel, some [California oil] is being sent to make up for the shortage," Comey said.

Although consumers in the Bay Area should expect a price increase at the pump, it might not come as early as tomorrow.

"Changes don’t come overnight, but there are some disturbing trends on the horizon that seem to indicate a reasonably significant increase in gas prices," Comey said.

eeconomides@examiner.com

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