The cost of gas at Bridgeway Service was $3.94 at 8:30 am on Wednesday, and up to $4.02 a gallon by 10 am. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The price of gasoline in Berkeley has gone up more than 14 cents a gallon to more than $4.00 in the last few days, and experts believe it may climb to more than $4.15 a gallon in the coming weeks.

The Aug. 6 fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond immediately created a scarcity of gas in California, which was reflected at the pumps the very next day.

Steve Carvalho, whose family has operated Bridgeway Service on the corner of Ashby and Claremont Avenues for 37 years, said he has seen four price surges over the past few days.

When Carvalho got to his station Tuesday morning at 5:30 am, immediately after the Chevron fire, his wholesaler notified him that gas prices had gone up. He got notification of another price increase at 9 am and then another at 1 pm.

On Wednesday morning the price increased a few more cents. Carvalho was selling regular gas for $3.90 a gallon on Sunday; it was $4.02 for a gallon of regular at 10 am on Wednesday.

“California only has one type of gas,” said Carvalho, who runs an independent station and sells gas under the Coast label. “It’s only manufactured here. We can’t borrow it from any other state, so we’re short of fuel.”

Steve Carvahlo, whose family has operated Bridgeway Service for 66 years, the last 37 at the intersection of Ashby and Claremont, has seen gas prices go up four times since the Aug. 6. fire at the Chevron refinery. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

In addition to the Chevron fire, local production had been down anyway since another refinery, Tesoro, was doing some maintenance, he said.

But the price increase has not hit Berkeley gas stations uniformly. Just a block away from Bridgeway, on Ashby and Domingo, a Chevron station was selling regular gas for $4.04. The Shell station on Oxford and Durant was selling gas for $3.99, as was Valero on Martin Luther King and University Avenue. The Shell station on Bonar and University, in contrast, was selling regular for $3.79.

Carvalho, whose family has been running a gas and service station for 66 years, said while there is scarcity, he believes prices are artificially manipulated by traders.

“Oh, they think. We’re going to be short in a couple of weeks. Let’s raise the price today.  It’s a volatile market.”

He said his wholesale price for gas has increased 29 cents in recent weeks.

Other experts are predicting that gas prices could jump as much as 35 cents a gallon.

“It could get very ugly, very fast,” Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for the price-watch websites run by, told the Los Angeles Times.

The Chevron refinery in Richmond is California’s third largest refinery and it processes about 243,000 barrels of oil into gasoline every day. It is one of 14 refineries in the state equipped to make the special blend of lower-polluting gas required by California law, according to the Times. The Aug. 6 fire damaged one unit, and the refinery is only making a small portion of the gasoline it usually produces.

“I happen to be in a neighborhood where some people don’t even blink at the cost of gas,” said Carvalho. “But you have young people driving to work from Modesto or Hayward or elsewhere. They feel it.”

Chevron fire out; investigation begins [08.07.12]
Chevron officials want East Bay residents to stay indoors [08.06.12]

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...