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Breakin’ the bank

Just one week after the average price of regular unleaded gasoline reached $4 a gallon in San Francisco, a Chevron station in Nevada City raised its price a dime Tuesday to $4.09 as other stations hovered closer to that painful mark.

The latest increase in local gasoline prices came on the same day that U.S. oil prices hit a record high of nearly $123 a barrel ” almost double the price of a year ago.

One Wall Street firm, Goldman Sachs, is predicting that prices could “super-spike” to $150 to $200 within two years.



“We have to rethink how we live,” such as using more public transportation, said Victoria Johnston of Nevada City, who was filling up at the Chevron station on Sacramento Street.

The Nevada City gas station has been charging $3.99 a gallon for regular unleaded for weeks but more than $4 a gallon for its other grades.




“I’ve been buying $4 gas here for the past two weeks,” said Jerry Collins, of Cascade Shores, who was filling up as well. “We all knew it was coming. We won’t put in new refineries or drill where we should be.”

Some newer car models require premium gasoline in their engines, causing anguish among some owners.

As previously reported, the price of gasoline has raised the cost of doing business for Gold Country Stage, school bus companies, businesses such as Robinson Enterprises and others.

Some local merchants in downtown Grass Valley and Nevada City also are concerned that higher gas prices will dampen tourism this summer, echoing a national concern.

Also Tuesday, Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Carl Levin of Michigan asked President Bush to create a federal task force “to investigate whether speculators are driving up prices in energy commodity markets through manipulative or deceptive practices.”

The Democrats asked that the group include the Secretary of the Treasury, Attorney General, and the chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodities Future Trading Commission, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

On the brighter side, the U.S. Energy Department is predicting gasoline prices will peak in June because of high prices and the prolonged economic slump.

In the meantime, California gas prices have been climbing. The statewide average was $3.91 a gallon as of April 28, 52 cents higher than a year ago. In addition, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo hold $4 averages for a gallon of unleaded gas.

Gas prices at Tahoe City had topped $4 a gallon for regular unleaded this week.

In the Grass Valley and Nevada City, a drive-by survey revealed prices ranging from a relative low of $3.79 a gallon at the Quick Market on Hughes Road in Grass Valley to $4.09 at the Chevron on Sacramento Street.

Other regular unleaded prices observed Tuesday included:

– $3.84 a gallon at the Nevada City Gas Co. on South Pine Street in Nevada City;

– $3.89 at the Shell station on East Main Street and Hughes Road in Grass Valley;

– $3.95 at Chevron station on East Main and Idaho-Maryland Road in Grass Valley;

– $3.87 at the Arco station on East Main and Brunswick Road in Grass Valley

– $3.95 at the 76 station on East Main Street in Grass Valley.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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