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Gas Prices Ease Again, with Cheapest Unleaded at $4.114 a Gallon in Santa Barbara

AAA notes seasonal price decline, but South Coast prices still outpacing state and national averages

The average price of gasoline has continued to ease since last month as many Southern California stations have posted prices below $4 a gallon, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

“It seems like the decline has moderated in its pace,” said Jeffrey Spring, spokesman for the Auto Club. “It was a very fast decline a week ago when a barrel of crude dropped from $115 to $100 and now the price of oil hovering from $97 to $101.”

On Friday, the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas was $4.114 in Santa Barbara, compared with the $3.721 national average and California’s $3.933 statewide average, according to GasBuddy.com. The Santa Barbara average was $4.327 last month when the national average was $3.947.

“Typically this time of year prices do decline,” Spring said. “We usually see prices increase in February and March and then peak in May and the beginning of June.

“They start dropping during the summer time because there’s always an expectation for more demand for gas because more people will be on the road.”

A barrel of crude oil is going for $100.28, but prices could dip about 10 to 15 cents lower, according to Spring, who added that there’s been more emphasis on oil and commodities as an investment tool than in the past.

“This year, prices started increasing in December because of expectations in other parts of world with China, India and Brazil, which are seeing robust economies,” he said. “There has been a flat demand for gas because of the economy, but consumers still have to pay more because — especially with oil and gas — we are a global economy and there is more demand for it in other parts of the world.”

South Coast residents can find the least expensive gas at Educated Car Wash, 3735 State St., at $3.74 a gallon. The next cheapest stations are the 76, 4401 N. Via Real, at $3.87; Conserv Fuel, 150 S. La Cumbre Road, at $3.93; and ARCO, 1395 State St., at $3.95. The Conserv Fuel station has the cheapest diesel fuel, at $4.33 a gallon.

The most expensive station is Mobil, 49 Glen Annie Road, with gas priced at $4.29 a gallon for unleaded.

Although the West Texas Intermediate crude oil price is widely publicized, a third of California’s oil is traded overseas and is benchmarked by the North Sea Brent crude oil, Spring said.

Also, gas prices in California are generally higher because of state taxes and regulations, he added.

“California has a special (gas) formulation to provide cleaner air and is more stringent than most parts of the country and the world,” Spring said. “Other states also don’t have the tax structure (that California does), which is in the top five as far as states go.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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