Ouch! Many stations in Humboldt are selling 87 octane unleaded for around six dollars per gallon. | Photo by Andrew Goff.


The average price of a gallon of gas in Humboldt County reached a painful $5.84 today, an increase of nearly a dollar per gallon since the beginning of the year and the highest mark in nearly six months.

It’s also the second-highest average price for any county in California, according to the American Automobile Association. (Only remote Mono County has more expensive prices.) And California, with its higher taxes, isolated market and special blend requirements, typically has the highest prices in the continental U.S.

Leading theories spotted on local social media today include “BIDEN!” and “NEWSOM(E)!” [fist-shaking implied], but the truth is a more complex.

Much to the consternation of local drivers, Humboldt County has long had some of the highest gas prices in the lower 48 for reasons that remain mostly unchanged since I wrote about them almost a dozen years ago. Factors include our geographic isolation, lockstep pricing among competitors and inefficient distribution. (Most gas sold here must be shipped from Bay Area refineries in tankers or barges operated by a small number of hauling companies, or “jobbers.”)

Meanwhile, prices have been rising across the country, and they’re going particularly ballistic here in California due to challenges at refineries, including shutdowns for scheduled maintenance, according to Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at Oil Price Information Service (OPIS). One San Francisco refinery stopped producing gasoline altogether in favor of renewable diesel, Yahoo News reports.

Prices tend to go up this time of year as demand increases in the approaching summer travel season. Other factors are international in scope. 

“Renewed Ukrainian attacks on Russia’s oil infrastructure and increasing tension in the Middle East spiked oil prices recently,” said AAA spokesman Andrew Gross. “And with the cost of oil accounting for roughly 60% of what we pay at the pump, there will likely be some upward pressure on prices.”    

Crude oil prices have risen to the mid-$80s per barrel, and the major oil companies continue to earn tens of billions of dollars per year. 

Last year, in an effort to combat soaring gas prices, Newsom signed into law a bill that created the Division of Petroleum Market Oversight, a new branch of the Energy Commission designed to function as a watchdog against price gouging. Last fall the director of that division sent Newsom and legislators a letter noting that gas prices had spiked “in a manner that does not appear to be completely explained even by … supply-and-demand fundamentals.”

Might be time to bust out your bicycles, Humboldt.